Murray, Carter join HOF shrine

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 28, 2003

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - The chant never stopped for Eddie Murray. And for a change, he didn't mind one bit.

As hundreds of Baltimore Orioles fans chanted, ''Eddie, Eddie, Eddie,'' Murray took his place among baseball's immortals Sunday, entering the Baseball Hall of Fame. He joined former Montreal Expos catcher Gary Carter, Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker, and Ohio sports writer Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News as this year's inductees.

Although he struggled with emotions and nerves on the podium, Murray, who shunned the media for much of his remarkable 21-year major league career, spoke eloquently of his life on the field.

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''It's a dream - one of the few things I never dreamed of,'' said Murray, the 38th player selected in the first year of eligibility. ''When Ted Williams was inducted, he said he must have earned it because he didn't win it because of his friendship with the writers. I guess in that way, I'm proud to be in his company.

''I've never been much on words,'' Murray said. ''I had a job to do. I'd seen people get caught up with doing well. I didn't want things like that to control me.''

The reticent Murray broke out of his shell as he stood before the adoring crowd, actually asking fans to chant before he spoke and as he was about to finish.

''I wanted to get it out of the way because I could get emotional on a day like today,'' said Murray, who with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are the only players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits. ''When you play, you learn to turn it down to a whisper so you can do your job.''

''Steady Eddie'' broke in with the Orioles in 1977 and won AL Rookie of the Year honors after hitting .283 with 27 homers and 88 RBIs. Taught to switch-hit in the minors, he quickly became one of the most feared clutch hitters of his generation. He hit 504 homers, including 19 grand slams, second all-time to the 23 of former Yankees great Lou Gehrig. He also drove in at least 75 runs for a major league-record 20 consecutive seasons.

Murray was surrounded by friends, as former Baltimore teammates Cal Ripken and Lee May - who Murray replaced in the lineup - were in the audience and Orioles Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver were on the podium. That seemed to make Murray more at ease than expected as he explained the work ethic he brought to the game as a player.

''There's more to this game than just walking up to home plate and swinging the bat,'' said Murray, who paid tribute to major-league baseball's first two black players, Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby. ''There's some dedication and love you have to put into this to become good. It was about showing up every day. I let my managers know that I was here to work. When I signed a contract, I was here to play 162 games.''

Carter's selection came on his sixth try.

is the first inductee to have an Expos hat on his Hall plaque. He thanked the people of the province of Quebec in French, and also thanked former President George Bush, who created a stir when he sat down in the audience right before the ceremony got under way.

Nicknamed ''Kid'' because of his youthful exuberance, Carter's trademark smile disappeared when he began to speak about his family. Carter's father, who was his Little League coach, died three weeks after the Hall of Fame voting in January. His mother died when he was 12.

''This is where it might get a little bit tough,'' said Carter, a star quarterback in high school in the Los Angeles area. ''My parents can't be here with me in person, but I know they're smiling down. Mom, pop, you're missed but will never be forgotten. I know how proud you guys are today.''

Carter made the big club for good in 1975. During his 19-year career, he was an All-Star game MVP twice, helped lead the New York Mets to the 1986 World Series title, and holds the major league career record for most putouts at catcher (11,785) and most chances accepted at catcher (12,988).

Uecker played just six unremarkable years as a backup catcher for four major league teams, barely hitting .200 with 14 homers and only 74 RBIs. But his blend of quick wit and homespun wisdom has since made him a star in movies, on TV shows and in beer commercials - and it's turned him into a cultural icon.

He's known by millions as Mr. Baseball, Harry Doyle - the oddball Indians announcer in the 1989 blockbuster movie ''Major League'' - and the Miller Lite front-row guy who couldn't catch a break. He also appeared as a character on the sitcom ''Mr. Belvedere.''

Uecker, who was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, ended his hilarious acceptance speech with both a tinge of seriousness and one last bit of humor.

''This has always been No. 1 - baseball,'' said Uecker, who has broadcast Brewers games since 1971. ''The commercials, the films, the television series, I could never wait for everything to get over to get back to baseball. I still, and this is not sour grapes by any means, still think I should have gone in as a player.''

McCoy, who won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, has covered the Cincinnati Reds for 31 years. But after suffering an optic stroke two years ago that took away half his vision, it took a lot of convincing by family, colleagues, and baseball fans for him to carry on.

''This is not about me, and it never was,'' said McCoy, who cried as he apologized for missing many family events during the more than 6,000 games he's covered. ''It was about the people who put me here, the people who supported me. If I could, I would get plaques for each and every one of you.''