There are a few players in Orioles history that are so well-renowned that they’re known among the fanbase by first name only. Cal comes to mind. So does Brooks. And of course, Eddie.
Eddie Murray was a star from the get-go. He burst onto the scene in 1977 at age 21 and played in every single game for the Orioles but two. After 611 at-bats, 27 home runs, and a .283/.333/.470 triple slash line, he walked away with the American League Rookie of the Year award. It would be the first of many prestigious honors in a career that would culminate with his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 as a Baltimore Oriole.
Truly an all-time great and an O’s legend, Eddie had his uniform number — 33 — retired by the club in 1998. He is also one of a select few former Birds to have a statue erected in his honor in the bullpen picnic area of Camden Yards.
On the baseball field, Eddie was as consistent as they come. To this day, he holds the record for most sacrifice flies in MLB history with 128. He reached the 500 home run milestone without ever having more than 33 home runs in a season. Year after year, he hit for a high batting average and had a high on-base percentage. Plus, he did it all as a switch-hitter.
Over the course of his 21-year career, Eddie was an All-Star eight times and won three Silver Slugger and three Gold Glove awards. Except for one All-Star selection and one Silver Slugger, every one of those accomplishments came as an Oriole.
When he retired after the 1997 season, Eddie had accumulated a total of 504 home runs, 1,917 RBI, 3,255 hits, a .287 batting average, .359 on-base percentage, .476 slugging percentage, .836 OPS and 129 OPS+.
He is one of six players in MLB history to have both 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. The rest of that short list includes Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Rafael Palmeiro and Albert Pujols.
It was a long road for Eddie Murray to reach Baltimore, considering his roots are on the West Coast. He was born in Los Angeles on February 24, 1956. The Orioles selected him in the third round of the 1973 draft out of Locke High School in LA and he spent roughly three and a half years in the minors before getting called up to the show.
Once he was promoted to the majors, Eddie hit the ground running and never looked back. In his first six seasons, from 1977 to 1982, Eddie hit .295/.360/.502 while averaging 28 home runs and 98 RBI.
He was an instrumental part of the O’s 1983 World Championship run, occupying the no. 4 spot in the lineup and hitting .306/.393/.538 with 33 home runs and 111 RBI during the regular season. His ‘83 postseason highlight came in Game 5 of the World Series, when he blasted a pair of home runs and drove in three runs in the series clinching 5-0 victory over the Phillies. Eddie finished second in the American League MVP voting that year, losing out to teammate Cal Ripken Jr. for the award.
Fair or not, Eddie began to develop a bit of a negative reputation around the local media, and the good feelings from that magical 1983 season would begin to fade over the coming seasons.
No, Eddie wasn’t a talkative guy around the press. And he went about his business quietly. That kind of stuff didn’t sit well with some people, but Eddie was a professional hitter and the model of consistency at the plate.
The friction between the slugger and the team intensified in the mid-to-late 80’s. In a piece about Eddie’s tough times in Baltimore, Mike Preston details how former Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams publicly criticized the star’s physical fitness during the 1986 season and then the following year, Eddie implied that maybe he should play elsewhere.
That notion came to pass on December 4th, 1988, when Eddie was traded to his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers for Juan Bell, Brian Holton and Ken Howell, three players who would fail to make any kind of mark playing baseball for the Orioles.
Flash forward almost a decade later, and Eddie would make his comeback to Baltimore in a midseason trade with the Cleveland Indians in 1996. The Birds were in the middle of a pennant run and brought in the veteran slugger to help anchor the lineup. Eddie was welcomed back with open arms by the Orioles faithful and went on to hit .257/.327/.439 with 10 home runs in 64 games.
Although Eddie’s 3,000th hit did not come in an O’s uniform, his 500th home run did. On a rainy night in early September, he cranked a shot into the right center field stands and in doing so acquired baseball immortality.
The fan who caught that ball, Dan Jones, would later sell it to the owner of the Psychic Friends Network, Michael Lasky, for $500,000. True story.
Eddie put up some of the best numbers of his career while playing for Baltimore, including a .294/.370/.498/.868 slash line at the plate. In 1,884 games with the Orioles, he had 343 home runs, 1,224 RBI, 363 doubles, 2,080 hits and a 139 OPS+.
He will go down in history as one of the best baseball players and best Orioles players, ever.