Steady Eddie

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11″x15″ Hand Cut, Hand Sewed Felt Appliqué with Paint

“Eddie Murray has hands. That may not seem like a particularly brilliant observation, but on the Baltimore Orioles “to have hands” is the ultimate compliment for a batter. “Singles hitters have baby hands,” says Murray, “and a hitter in a slump, his hands are on vacation.” Eddie Murray has hands.

To be precise, he has soft hands. In baseball, a fielder with soft hands is a very good one—and Murray is among the very best first basemen. But his hands are also soft in a literal sense. Baltimore Coach Elrod Hendricks calls them “dishpan hands.” They blister easily, and Murray tries to avoid swinging a bat in the off-season and early in spring training.

But those hands have made Murray, at 26, the most dreaded hitter in the American League. Teammate Terry Crowley says, “This is Eddie’s league. We’re just members of it.” He is, without much argument, the best switch hitter with power since Mickey Mantle. In his first five seasons (even counting stricken 1981), he averaged 26.6 home runs, 95.2 RBIs and batted .291. Red Sox Manager Ralph Houk recently told a writer assigned to a story on Murray, “If you find out a way to pitch to him, let me know.”

For a good while the line on Murray was, ad nauseam, “Nobody knows how good he can be.” Well, people found out how good he could be from May 9 of last year until May 2 of ’82. In that 114-game period, Murray batted .348 with 27 homers, 92 RBIs and a .644 slugging percentage. As for his fielding, he made one error in ’81 for a percentage of .999, and since his major league debut in 1977 he has had errorless streaks of 61, 80 and 113 games. He has hands, all right.”

Sports Illustrated