Quietly happy, Murray just rolls on


MINNEAPOLIS -- There are at least three images of Eddie Murray.

The accomplished major-leaguer who got two hits last night and is one away from becoming the 20th player in history to collect 3,000 hits. The loner who refuses to deal with the media and who left Baltimore after 12 seasons under a cloud of bitterness and distrust.

And then there is the Murray known only to friends and family.

"Eddie is a real great guy," said his 52-year-old brother, Charles, who lives in Randallstown. "I wish people who didn't know wouldn't judge him. He's not the way people perceive."

Murray, twice nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award for community service, takes a special interest in children. "He loves children, reaching out to them," said his long time agent, Ron Shapiro. "He finds comfort in their innocence, their lack of bias and their openness."

Now, Murray, 39, has a child of his own. He and his wife of two years, the former Janice Zenon, have a 10-month-old daughter, Jordan Alexandra.

And Murray is happy in Cleveland. He's on a winning team, he's providing leadership for a group of young hitters and he's established a good relationship with the local media.

"Cleveland found out you don't have to write about Eddie to enjoy him," Shapiro said.

"He was the happiest that I've ever seen him," said Orioles hitting coach Lee May, who ate dinner at Murray's house with bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks and first base coach Al Bumbry during the Orioles' last trip to Cleveland. "Eddie's such a loner, I never thought he'd get married. I never thought he'd share himself with anybody. He's doing great now. He's doing the family thing."

Murray is so happy that he could return to the Orioles after this season. Shapiro said it's a possibility. Hendricks said he could "much better handle the situation than when he left." Charles said his brother wanted to come back to the Orioles last season: "We talked about it. He said, 'I'd like to end my career in Baltimore.' "

Charles understands Eddie because his dream -- to play in the majors -- was Eddie's dream. It was Charles' dream first. Charles was the first of the five Murray brothers from Los Angeles to play pro baseball. Only Eddie and Rich, who played briefly for the San Francisco Giants in 1980, ever made it to the majors.

Eddie modeled his effortless on-field appearance after Charles and took to heart one of the sayings of his late mother, Carrie: "If you can't control you, you can't control nothing."

Eddie controlled himself, so much so that, early in his career, his teammates nicknamed him "Tired" and "Lazy." They joked about his laid-back image because they understood it. Fans didn't -- they saw Murray with his arms crossed at first base, his uniform spotless, and they saw a sullen, uninterested ballplayer.

Murray's consistency is a byproduct of his laid-back nature. He never has had more than 186 hits or 33 home runs in a season, but could join Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the third player with 500 homers and 3,000 hits. He also could tie Aaron's record of 19 straight 75-RBI seasons.

Murray is consistent because he is always thinking ahead.

"I dare say when he gets 3,000 hits there will be a feeling of pride, but he will be thinking about his next at-bat," Shapiro said. "What Eddie has is something in his head that would make him a great battlefield general."

And Murray's teammates knew he was into the game. Former pitcher Scott McGregor said: "It didn't matter if we needed a stolen base, he'd steal it; a home run, he'd hit it; a base hit, he'd get it. He was my favorite. To this day, he still is."

Around teammates and family, Murray is a jokester, a fun-loving person, but still a loner. "Sometimes, he's mysterious to me, and he's my friend," Shapiro said. "He's not a reactive personality, so you don't always get a response when you want one."

Around strangers, Murray reacts with silence. Particularly around the media. Ever since a column by New York sportswriter Dick Young written during the 1979 World Series characterized his family as racist, Murray has guarded his privacy. Now, he speaks occasionally to reporters from Cleveland, but never to ones from Baltimore, New York or those he doesn't know.

"Eddie is not a man who thinks in shades of gray," Shapiro said. "He's not a relativist. Maybe that's why he's so unforgiving. He practices the golden rule: If I wouldn't do it to you, then why would you do it to me?"

Murray didn't forgive former Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams. A frustrated and impatient Williams was dying of cancer in 1986 when the Orioles were losing. He attacked Murray's work ethic and pride. In August, he told the media Murray was "doing nothing."

Williams apologized. Murray asked to be traded. Their clash was the beginning of the end of Murray's relationship with the Orioles.

Over the next two years, Murray became more and more withdrawn, and the newspapers and radio talk shows became more and more critical. The invective from a small group of fans, according to Murray's friends, developed into racism.

"I would see it. They would scratch his car up and everything," Charles said. "It's hard to talk with you about. I know so many things that happened. I know it was racial."

In a recent interview with the Akron Beacon Journal, Murray downplayed but did not ignore the issue of race, particularly in his dealings with the media. "Sometimes, there seems to be a difference in reporting between white and black players," Murray said. "It happens too often for it just to be [an accident]."

Incidents that Murray perceived as racial did not stop him from reaching out to the Baltimore community. He gave away 50 tickets a game to underprivileged youths, endowed the Carrie Murray Outdoor Learning Center in Leakin Park and sponsored several Little League teams and a Jacob Lawrence exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

For now, Orioles fans will have to watch Murray get 3,000 hits from afar. Murray has said he does not get caught up in statistics. But to his older brother, his milestones are part of a family dream.

"I'm proud of him," Charles said. "He's accomplished a lot in his lifetime."

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