It was 1979 … my uncle was taking me to my first Twins game. It was also the first time I truly found a favorite player. The bad thing for my uncle is that his name was Eddie Murray. Murray went 3-5 with three homers and drove in seven RBI that day.
In 1983, my uncle promised to take me to a bunch of games because the previous year I’d broken my leg and wasn’t able to play or go to a single game. We ended up going to one game and then, for the rest of the games, he just paid for me to go on the bus. Why? Because we went to see the Baltimore Orioles and I was able to see Eddie Murray again. He was coming off of a monster year in 82, and sure enough he jacked another. I was just in heaven. All I could talk about was Eddie Murray. My friends were into Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Robin Yount, and Kent Hrbek. For me, it was Eddie Murray, George Foster, and Lance Parrish – but mostly Eddie Murray.
In 1985 I begged to get to go to the All-Star game, but my uncle said there was no way we were paying $45 for tickets to a baseball game.
I was pretty young, so I expected to get to go to another All-Star Game at some point. Side note… the game is here in Minnesota in 2014, and the average price is $450 for a ticket. Ugh.
I did get to go to a couple of games in 85 though. I saw the Brewers, the Red Sox, and I was able to see the Orioles again. Ken Schrom was pitching yet again for the Twins and Murray hit a Grand Slam.
I saw Murray play again in 86 and 87 without a lot of fan fare, but in 1988 my uncle brought me and my friend Chad Culbert to see the Twins play the Orioles yet again. He was razzing me on the way up, telling me the Twins didn’t have Schrom anymore and they were going to no-hit the Orioles. I laughed at him and told him that Eddie Murray was going to go 4-4 with four homers and 10 RBI and the Twins would lose. We were sitting in the lower deck between the right field and first base. They were the best tickets I’d ever had for a Twins game. Eddie Murray hit a two-run shot off of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven in the first inning, and my uncle moved to the end of the row. In the second inning Murray hit a three-run homer and my uncle and his girlfriend moved back five or so rows – attendance was not exactly stellar in those days.
By the time that Eddie Murray was up for the third time my uncle got up and moved to a different section of the ballpark, leaving Chad and me to contemplate Murray hitting his third homer of the game. But the Twins walked him, and it was the first time I ever booed at a Twins game. In his fourth at-bat, he hit a long single to right center, and Kirby Puckett robbed him of a double. In his fifth plate appearance Murray walked again, and I could see my uncle just glaring at me because he the game was getting long and he wanted to leave. It was already 11-8, but Murray was going to bat in the ninth and I wanted to see him hit his third homer so badly … but Juan Berenguer walked him, leaving Murray 3-3 with two homers, five RBI, and three walks.
Murray was traded the next season and it broke my heart for the most part, though by that time I’d become a huge Don Mattingly fan, and was blown away by being able to watch Cubs, Mets, and Braves games, in addition to the Twins, every day through the miracle of cable television that had finally reached my home town. Through those outlets and the newspaper’s daily box scores I was able to always keep track of my guy.
In 1995 Eddie was getting ready for his 3,000th hit, and it looked increasingly like he was going to get it against the Twins. My uncle had given up on baseball by then because of the strikes, but I wanted to go to see this, and it was going to be so important that Chad and I could see this happen. Then I got hurt at work – which seemed like an amazing break because I was working nights, so a Twins game seemed like an easy maneuver.
But Chad was also working nights and he couldn’t get the time off. I remember sitting in a sweltering trailer house in St. Peter, Minn. on June 30th, watching Eddie get his 2,999th hit, and calling Chad at work every single time Murray came to the plate… I was in terrible pain lying down on the floor in between Murray at bats, but when he came up and hit that seeing eye ground ball between first and second for his 3,000th hit I was in no pain. I was suddenly 6-years-old again, and I was 10, and 12, and 15…
I was jumping up and down. Between the whiskey and the pain pills I was truly in heaven. Thanks to ESPN SportsCenter, when Chad came over later that night to hang out and drink some beer, we were able to watch the replay and an interview. It was just an incredible evening. Little did I know that as the clock struck 1 a.m. on July 4th my best friend and brother was dying in a car crash.
I fell apart, and drank a lot that summer after Chad died. I found ticket stubs to baseball games I didn’t remember going to in my jeans pocket. I was lost as lost could be, and then I took his little brother, Darron, to a card show at the mall in Mankato, Minn. and one of the venders had a signed Eddie Murray Indians baseball helmet. I started to cry, and I told Darron of all the Eddie Murray stories. Every time I would tell baseball stories it always came back to Chad and to Eddie Murray…
When Eddie went back to Baltimore in 1996 it seemed like a fitting end, and my friend and now editor Andy Tellijohn brought me back a cup commemorating Murray’s 500th homerun. Eddie hung on another year, but his career was over, and my love of the game was waning as well. Darryl Strawberry had been busted for drugs, so had Dwight Gooden. Mattingly had injured his back and wasn’t ever the same player. Puckett and the Twins weren’t winning and then Kirby lost his eye sight … Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken were all nearing the end of their careers. I was losing interest in the game and I was in love with the lady that would become my wife.
She saw my large collection of baseball cards and didn’t laugh at me, or run away. In fact that year for Christmas she asked my uncle who my favorite players were, and then went to the Mall of America and bought me an autographed Eddie Murray baseball.
My passion for baseball and collecting was reignited. So while Roberto Clemente is my all time favorite player, and Don Mattingly and Justin Morneau have special places in my heart … to me Eddie Murray will always be baseball. My history, my guy. I wish I could have been there for his 3,000th hit. I wish Chad could have been there for his 500th homer and his induction to the Hall of Fame. However, baseball keeps going even when we won’t, can’t, and don’t want to.
** This post was originally written as a journal entry in 1999. It was updated this year for this blog.