Ten Who Missed: No. 9, Eddie Murray
We continue our “Ten Who Missed” series today, with an essay on Eddie Murray. “Ten Who Missed” is a companion to The Baseball 100 — as the name suggests, it will feature 10 players who just missed The Baseball 100 (and those 10 players were chosen by you, brilliant readers, in a survey that Tom Tango and I did a little while ago). We’ll have a new “Ten Who Missed” essay every Friday. It should be really fun. Thanks, as always, for your support!
Here’s a question to ponder: How good was Los Angeles’ Locke High School baseball team in 1973?
Eddie Murray was the starting first baseman. Ozzie Smith was the starting shortstop. And Darrell Jackson, who would win 20 games for the Twins in the late ’80s and early ’90s, was a pitcher on that team.
State champions, right?
Nope. That team lost in the second round of the Los Angeles City baseball playoffs to Kennedy High School.
On the one hand, that tells you hard it is for one or two or even three great players to make a great baseball team. And on the other hand, it tells you just how much astonishing baseball talent came out of Murray’s part of Los Angeles.
Put it this way, Murray’s older brother Charles Murray — who played seven years in the minors and hit 37 homers one year in Modesto — was the idol not only of all the Murray brothers, but also of a couple of pretty talented ballplayers in the neighborhood who went to nearby Fremont High School: Bobby Tolan and Bob Watson.
Another older Murray brother, Leon, was a third-round pick of the Orioles, and he played one season in the minors; his best friend was a ballplayer named George Hendrick, who played 18 years in the big leagues and hit 267 home runs.
Dock Ellis grew up in the neighborhood. Don Wilson grew up in the neighborhood. Reggie Smith grew up in the neighborhood. Roy White grew up in the neighborhood. Al Cowens … Dave Nelson … Lenny Randle … Willie Crawford … Chet Lemon … I mean this is just an incredible collection of talent. Eddie has two OTHER brothers who played professional baseball, including Rich Murray, who made it up to the San Francisco Giants.
Some time ago, I asked Eddie Murray why there are so many fewer black players in baseball now. He said the reason is that, basically, ballplayers are no longer coming out of his neighborhood of Los Angeles.
In 1979, during the Baltimore-Pittsburgh World Series, New York Daily News columnist Dick Young wrote a column that changed the entire trajectory of Eddie Murray’s baseball life.