Power. Consistency. Durability.
Those were the hallmarks of Eddie Murray's 21-year major league career.
He never led a league in batting, home runs or RBIs in a non-strike season and never won a league Most Valuable Player award, but he quietly performed at an elite level for so long that his place in the Hall of Fame became a certainty.
His induction ceremony is set for this afternoon in Cooperstown, N.Y., with busloads of nostalgic Baltimore baseball fans on hand to chant his first name, as they did when Murray was piling up game-winning hits as the centerpiece of the Orioles' batting order in the 1970s and 1980s.
Today, the "Ed-die" chant will honor an overall career that ranks as one of baseball's finest.
He is also the only player to drive in at least 75 runs in each of his first 20 seasons.
An eight-time All-Star, he holds a number of major league records, including games played and career assists by a first baseman and most RBIs by a switch-hitter. He ranks seventh on the overall all-time RBIs list and was the 15th player to reach 500 home runs.
He retired in 1997 with a .287 career batting average, 504 home runs and 1,917 RBIs, numbers that assured his selection to the Hall of Fame as soon as he became eligible. He was named on 85 percent of the ballots from the Baseball Writers' Association of America last winter, easily exceeding the 75 percent required for induction.
"He could do things with the bat that not very many players can do," said Orioles coach Rick Dempsey, who teamed with Murray on the Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers. "Not only was he a good power hitter, but he was a good average hitter. He could spray the ball around, go the opposite way with power. He just had tremendous offensive ability."
Not that he was a one-dimensional player. His defensive skills as a first baseman were well above average for much of his career, as evidenced by the three Gold Glove Awards he won.
"He broke in [in 1977] as a DH because he was so good that he had to play, but we had Lee May at first," said Earl Weaver, who was managing the Orioles then. "The only problem was that people got the wrong first impression [about Murray] because he broke in as a DH. He was a good first baseman."
The American League's Rookie of the Year in 1977, Murray eventually replaced May and played his first 12 seasons with the Orioles as the anchor of their batting order. He was regarded as the game's most dangerous hitter from 1980 to 1985, averaging 30 homers and 108 RBIs. He was so feared that Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson once walked him with the bases loaded.
Seven of his eight All-Star selections and five of his seven .300 seasons came in Baltimore. He won the Orioles triple crown five times, leading the team in batting average, home runs and RBIs.
Disagreements with the media, front office and fans led to his departure from Baltimore after the 1988 season. Traded to the Dodgers, he also played for the New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, Orioles and Anaheim Angels during the next decade. Although he was past his prime as a slugger, his combination of production, consistency and leadership was deemed desirable.
He could still carry an offensive load, too. He hit .330 for the Dodgers in 1990, drove in 100 runs for the Mets in 1993 and hit .323 with 21 homers and 82 RBIs for the Indians' American League pennant-winning team in 1995.
His return to Baltimore via trade in 1996 served as a healing event, helping erase many of the bad feelings that had simmered since his departure eight years earlier. He was wearing an Orioles uniform when he hit his 500th home run at Camden Yards on Sept. 6, 1996, and he helped the team make it back to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
His career arc was predicted by a psychological test the Orioles gave him in 1973, when he was a California high school star being considered for the draft. The Orioles ended up selecting him in the third round and signing him to a contract with a $25,500 bonus.
"In that test, we saw that he had exceptional emotional control and exceptional drive," said Dave Ritterpusch, who was the Orioles' scouting director in 1973. "Some [scouts from other teams] saw that emotional control as a lack of drive, but in fact, what he had was amazing composure."
Known for leading by example in the clubhouse, he mentored many younger players. Cal Ripken, a close friend, singled him out as a role model on the night Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record in 1995.
Although Ripken is now known as the game's all-time iron man, he learned the "play every day" habit from Murray, who missed an average of less than four games a season in his first seven years with the Orioles.
In the end, Murray had 16 seasons of playing 150 or more games, and Ripken had 15. Only Pete Rose had more than either.
"No one wanted to be in there every day more than Eddie," said Ron Shapiro, Murray's agent since 1977.
He played 12 1/2 of his 21 seasons with the Orioles and hit 343 of his 504 homers wearing the team's uniform.
"Eddie is one of the all-time great Orioles," May said. "He was a quiet guy who wanted to be judged by what he did on the field. And what he did on the field was fantastic."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun