Saturday, June 6, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty-Four (1987 Season Edition): Eddie Murray hitches a ride around the stadium

Baltimore Orioles Victory #24: 4-3 over the Oakland A's

2019 Topps Update Eddie Murray Short Print Variation

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

Ahh, short print variations. Love them or hate them, they are probably going to be cropping up for the foreseeable future in Topps flagship product and update series. Like a of things in this industry I can take or leave them. Usually, if I pull one they're on eBay before the pack wrapper is in the trash. Mr. Murray has a few scattered among the recent sets and I picked this one up off of eBay for a really good price the other day.

It features a rare smile of Murray smiling in Baltimore. It's based on a Getty Images photo that was taken on June 7th, 1998 prior to a game against the Atlanta Braves.  A year after he played his final game in the MLB and two seasons after he last suited up to play for the Orioles (he was in uniform in 1998, serving as a bench coach for Ray Miller) Murray finally had his number retired by the ballclub.

Why do I say finally? Well, because the ball club announced in 1989 that they would retire the number 33. That's right, with nine seasons left in his career the Orioles had already signaled that he would be remembered among the greats of the organization. If that wasn't awkward enough, the announcement came roughly three months after the Birds had traded his contract to the Dodgers for the slightly underwhelming return of Brian Holton, Juan Bell, and Ken Howell. 

The initial announcement wasn't handled well. John Steadman, longtime columnist for The Baltimore Sun, lambasted the decision calling it a "sham and an insult to players, past and present, who hold a deep affection for the city". He then made a case for the club retiring the number of Willie Miranda before Murray's 33. Murray, for his part, seemed indifferent at the announcement, offering up a "what do you want me to say?" when informed about it. The parting, as you can see, was a bit contentious.

Time heals almost all wounds, so by the time this photo was taken, past insults were forgotten. A 1996 trade had brought him back to Charm City for the stretch run and in time to hit his 500th home run in an Orioles home run. So it was all smiles and "Ed-die, Ed-die" chants that day as he toured the permiter of the field in a 1998 silver Corvette.

I would love to say that the 1998 Orioles showed Eddie Murray a tremendous outpouring of respect and prevailed against the Braves that day. They did not. Fellow Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux put on one of his clinics as he twirled a 4-hit shutout, facing just 30 hitters (with 20 of them hitting groundballs). It was the first time in 129 games the Os had been shut out and Maddux made it look easy. Doug Drabek, starting for the Orioles, made it look difficult as he gave up five runs in three innings. The Orioles would drop the game 9-0 in a somewhat quick-paced 2:25.

There was just a bit of star power in Camden Yards that day.. Five Hall-of-Famers (Maddux, Chipper Jones, Cal Ripken, Jr., Harold Baines, and Roberto Alomar) played in the game. Three more hallowed members (Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Bobby Cox) sat on the bench for the Braves while the Orioles had Mike Mussina and his future Hall-of-Fame self on the bench. Both GMs - John Schuerholz for Atlanta and Pat Gillick for the O's - have their names in the Pioneer/Builders wing in Cooperstown as well.

Eleven total future members had some hand in the game while already enshrined members Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, and Frank Robinson took part in the pre-game ceremony (Brooks Robinson sent a video tribute). Including Murray, that makes fifteen (!) Hall-of-Famers at the Yard that day. Not too shabby for a random day in June.

For those wondering what's going on in the 1987 Orioles season - we'll get back to that with the next post. I realize that we are way off when it comes to dates (the Orioles 24th victory took place on May 25th) but trust me it'll all work out. There is a bit of a swoon coming up so I figured it would be better to spread things out a bit. Since it doesn't look like there will be 2020 baseball any time soon we'll be sticking to the 1987 season for a little while longer.

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