Advertisement
News

Murray all it took to make brief scouting career a hit

It was as though Dave Ritterpusch had dropped off a turnip wagon. Others in the professional pursuit of scouting and signing young talent regarded him as inexperienced, naive and unqualified. He wasn't a vested member of the baseball fraternity, so his portfolio didn't draw attention. His background showed a degree in engineering from Lehigh University, service with the military and a term in the banking business.

So here he was as the new director of scouting for the Orioles in 1973, and he approached the role of processing players with an entirely different new perspective and varied technique. He dared to be different.

Advertisement

Ritterpusch had the idea that written motivational tests should be given to all prospects to supplement what the earlier physical reports stated regarding height, weight and abilities to hit for average, generate power, field, run and throw. What he wanted was something more insightful, a personal look inside the prospect.

And right there is the reason Eddie Murray became an Oriole. Rival organizations said he was lackadaisical, even lazy, but that was all wrong. Just cheap talk formulated among scouts as they offered opinions, scattering ideas that were purely subjective and rendering evaluations from seats in the grandstand.

Advertisement

What Ritterpusch desired, though, was something more in-depth, a chance to find out what was under the surface -- character, personality and ambition of the individual. Such an examination became available after a group of professors at San Jose State developed a tool to measure what they called athletic motivational inventory.

Ritterpusch was ready to avail himself of their services.

The information on Murray provided Ritterpusch with the most flattering and objective analysis he could have imagined. It was the antithesis of what most scouts had concluded, though the Orioles' Ray Poitevint, Bill Werle and Willie Moore were enthralled by his bat speed and long-ball capabilities.

"Eddie, despite what was being said, was highly ambitious and had a momentous desire to succeed," Ritterpusch explained. "This contradicted what the scouts, in general, believed about him. He was so composed, it turned off a lot of teams. But the test results on Eddie were so exceptional he was almost off the scale."

Ritterpusch believed -- and he was proved right -- that baseball relied too much on snap judgments, kind of buying a book for the flash of its cover rather than the text itself. Eddie Murray, not loud or the showboat type but conservative and reticent, became an extraordinary player for the Orioles -- the best in the history of the franchise. Superb with glove and bat, a strong arm, enough speed to steal a base, instincts and a competitive desire of great intensity. Plus, he hit with authority from either side of the plate.

"Let me read to you from the Orioles' 1973 psychological profile on Eddie that was written shortly after his 17th birthday," Ritterpusch said. "Here's what it says: 'Eddie Murray is an extremely stable individual with exceptional emotional control. Regardless of how stressful the situation becomes, he will think clearly and concentrate on his objectives.' "

That report was written about Murray before he played a game in the Orioles' minor-league system. Yet, in retrospect, it's as authentic as anything that could be formulated today, from the luxury of hindsight -- 23 years after he reported to Bluefield in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and went on to establish himself as a future Hall of Fame selection with 20 seasons of exceptional major-league production.

After the Orioles drafted Murray in the third round (the first pick in the draft that year was David Clyde, by the Texas Rangers), it was Ritterpusch's responsibility to get him signed. "I quickly learned he was the product of a wonderful home and his mother was a special kind of woman.

Advertisement

"She was a terrific negotiator. When we'd talk contract and she didn't like what I was saying, she'd remind me of how important it was he start college. Eddie got a $25,000 signing bonus, which was more than we paid our first two choices, a couple of pitchers named Mike Parrott and Jerry Guinn."

In a later assessment of the 1973 draft, Ritterpusch and Jim McLaughlin, whom he insists was vastly underappreciated for his contributions to the farm system, went over the lists of four other teams in an exchange of information.

"It was reciprocal," he recalled. "We traded our evaluations with the Yankees, Mets and Royals on the top amateur players in the country. The Yankees and Mets never even had Murray listed. The Royals had him 15th, but scratched out his name for some reason. Right now, as we talk, I can't think of the fourth team whose list we had."

The Murray pick showed that the "edge" Ritterpusch was looking for could be found if pursued with hard work and diligence. In the same draft, the Orioles acquired Mike Flanagan on the seventh round.

"Not bad," Ritterpusch concedes. "Again the motivational test helped and so did Dr. Edmond McDonnell, the Johns Hopkins surgeon, who told us what questions we should ask of Mike about the condition of his pitching arm. We got information other clubs didn't have."

And for an extra find, the Orioles got pitcher Dennis Martinez from Granada, Nicaragua, as an undrafted free agent the same year they cashed in on Murray and Flanagan. "That's one Hall of Famer in Murray and a Cy Young winner in Flanagan," Ritterpusch said.

Advertisement

The unfortunate thing about Ritterpusch is that he fell victim to the changing command of the Orioles.

He was terminated in 1974 and, even though he had performed in an exceptional manner, came close to joining only one other team, the Oakland A's. He would have had a deal but Charlie Finley, the irascible owner, after agreeing to terms, never sent him a contract.

Ritterpusch had been an Army officer in Panama and then an executive with the Equitable Trust Co., when a recommendation by one of the Orioles' owners, Zanvyl Krieger, to Frank Cashen, the general manager, resulted in his being hired. So after his baseball career ended, short-lived as it was, he returned to the Army and an assignment at the Pentagon, where he was involved in analysis and research for the office of the chief of staff.

He retired as a full colonel after a second Army stint of 14 years. Ritterpusch then became an assistant secretary of labor in the Bush administration and now is associated with the International Business Experts System (IBES) in Falls Church, Va. His resume includes high achievements in varied fields, but, in personal satisfaction, the selection and signing of Eddie Murray remains a momentous one.

Murray's test score and performance over two decades proves how right Ritterpusch had been.

Pub Date: 8/25/96


Advertisement