Next stop: Cooperstown
Murray reaches Hall on first ballot; Carter in on sixth tryPosted: Tuesday January 07, 2003 2:07 PM
Updated: Wednesday January 08, 2003 3:35 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- When Cooperstown came calling for Gary Carter and Eddie Murray, they answered in vastly different ways.
Carter shouted and punched the air in joy when he heard the words "Hall of Fame."
Murray could hardly speak, but for a much more somber reason.
The only switch-hitter with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, Murray became just the 38th player to be elected to the Hall in his first year of eligibility Tuesday.
The steady, silent first baseman of the Baltimore Orioles could not enjoy the moment. Later in the day in Southern California, he was to attend the funeral of his sister, who died Jan. 2 at 38.
"Unfortunately, I cannot speak with you today because of the passing of my younger sister, Tanja, after her long-fought battle with kidney disease," Murray said in a statement.
"Although I dedicated my professional career to the game, I have dedicated my life to my family. The elation I feel by being recognized for my achievements on the field is overshadowed by the anguish of losing someone so dear to me," he said.
Always exuberant, Carter finally made it on his sixth try. An 11-time All-Star catcher with Montreal and the New York Mets, he may become the first player inducted with an Expos cap on his plaque.
"I got overly excited and screamed," Carter said. "Now we can do a little celebrating."
Murray easily exceeded the 75 percent necessary for election, getting chosen on 85 percent of the ballots (423 of 496).
Carter got in with 78 percent (387). He fell 11 votes short last year at 72.7 percent.
Murray and Carter played together for Los Angeles in 1991. They became the sixth set of teammates to be elected together; Minnesota's Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield made it in 2001.
No one else came close in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Carry-over candidates Bruce Sutter, Jim Rice and Andre Dawson were right around 50 percent, and first-timers Ryne Sandberg and Lee Smith didn't even reach that mark. Darryl Kile, the St. Louis pitcher who died last season, got token support.
Pete Rose, ineligible for the ballot because he's on baseball's permanently banned list, got 18 write-in votes -- the same as last year. Rose and commissioner Bud Selig's aides have been negotiating terms of a possible reinstatement for the career hits leader.
The reconfigured Veterans Committee, which is considering former manager Whitey Herzog, former players' union head Marvin Miller and many others, will announce its voting results Feb. 26.
Induction ceremonies will be July 27 in Cooperstown, the small village in upstate New York. Murray and Carter bring the Hall's total to 256 members.
Carter's father, Jim, turns 85 three weeks before the festivities.
"He was beyond words," said Carter, the 13th catcher to make the Hall. "I know how much it means to him."
Murray, currently the Cleveland Indians' hitting coach, was an eight-time All-Star and finished with 504 homers and 3,255 hits in 21 seasons. Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are the only other players in the 500-3,000 club.
He hit 19 career grand slams, second in major league history to Lou Gehrig's 23, and played a record 2,413 games at first base. Murray batted .287 overall and homered twice for the Orioles in the clinching Game 5 of the 1983 World Series.
Murray never led the league in hitting, homers or RBIs in a full season, was never an MVP and never was friendly with the media.
"Eddie was not only a great teammate but he was a great friend as well," Ripken said in a statement. "When I first came to the big leagues he really helped me out and showed me the way.
"It makes me sad to see how Eddie is misunderstood by some of the fans and members of the media. The Eddie that I know always put his team ahead of everything else and went about his business in a manner that all players should follow," he said.
Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, who played with Murray for eight years in Baltimore, echoed those sentiments.
"He was a private guy. He didn't wear his emotions on his sleeve," Palmer said. "If people got to know and see the Eddie Murray that I knew, they'd understand he was a terrific guy."
"He didn't want all the accolades," Carter said. "He just wanted to go about his business."
But there was no mistaking how much he meant to his teammates. When Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak, he singled out a very few people to thank, and Murray was one of them.
Palmer was among several players who called Carter earlier in the day to wish him good luck. Carter found out his wait was over after finishing a round of golf with friends, including former big leaguer Tommy Hutton.
"Even though the six years seemed long, they shortened it up by the call today. It was like all the other years were blended in and forgotten," he said.
Carter played his first 11 years with the Expos, a team whose future is in doubt. He later helped the Mets win the 1986 title.
Though players can express a preference as to which cap will appear on their Cooperstown plaque, the final choice rests with the Hall of Fame.
"Maybe they might wind up splitting the hat," Carter said from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Carter, a three-time Gold Glove winner, hit .262 with 324 homers and 1,225 RBIs in 19 seasons. He holds the major league record for putouts by a catcher and played an NL-record 2,056 games at the position.
His average is among the lowest among Hall members -- Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio also hit .262, and only Rabbit Maranville (.258), Harmon Killebrew (.256) and Ray Schalk (.253) were lower.
Sandberg got 49.2 percent (244 votes). A 10-time All-Star second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, he holds the record for most homers as a second baseman (277) and highest fielding percentage at the position (.989).
"I have to remember struggling through the minor leagues and struggling that first year as a rookie. I just have to keep things in perspective, that it's just great to be considered," he said.
Smith got 42.3 percent (210 votes). He is baseball's career saves leader with 478 and was a seven-time All-Star in 18 seasons.
Jim Kaat, who won 283 games, got 26.2 percent in his 15th and final year of eligibility with the BBWAA.
Kile, who got seven votes, was among several players who did not receive the necessary 5 percent to stay on the ballot. Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams was among four players who did not get a vote.