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Fame Comes With a Price

Murray is elected to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility on the day of his sister's funeral. Gary Carter finally makes it on his sixth try.

January 08, 2003|Ross Newhan | Times Staff Writer

A day of happiness for Gary Carter was one of sadness for Eddie Murray.

Both of the former Southern California high school stars learned Tuesday that they had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Carter finally receiving the required 75% of votes cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America in his sixth year of eligibility and Murray doing it in his first.

Only Carter, however, was available to express his joy in a conference call with BBWAA members. Murray was attending funeral services in Los Angeles for his sister, Tanja, 38, who died Jan. 2 of kidney disease.

In a statement, he said: "The elation I feel by being recognized for my achievements on the field is overshadowed by the anguish of losing someone dear to me. Although I dedicated my professional career to the game, I have dedicated my life to my family."

A Locke High teammate of Ozzie Smith, who was inducted into the Hall last year, Murray seldom talked to reporters during a 21-year career in which he slugged 504 home runs and collected 3,255 hits, but that didn't stop the majority of BBWAA voters from endorsing his credentials.

The sullen first baseman became the 38th player elected in his first year on the ballot, receiving 423 of the 496 votes (85.3%).

The frequently disappointed Carter received 387 votes (78%) and will join Murray on the induction stage at Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 27.

They were the only players elected.

Former Chicago Cub second baseman Ryne Sandberg (49.2%) and all-time saves leader Lee Smith (42.3%), both in their first year of eligibility, received surprisingly poor support, while former relief pitcher Bruce Sutter, with 266 votes and 53.6%, finished a distant third behind Murray and Carter.

The induction ceremonies, however, may still be expanded to include former players, executives, managers and umpires, pending results of the current election by the new Veterans Committee. Those results will be announced Feb. 26.

Although Carter, whose professional career began when he was signed out of Fullerton Sunny Hills High by scout Bob Zuk, was "relieved and jubilant" after a five-year wait that at times left him "discouraged" at his chances to reach the Hall, he was saddened to hear of Murray's loss.

The former catcher was a teammate of Murray with the Dodgers in 1991 and said, "Eddie had no desire for accolades or sharing his emotions with the press, but I always considered him the consummate professional. He played with intensity, and I compare him in that regard to Andre Dawson, who was a teammate in Montreal."

Murray spent three productive seasons with the Dodgers, averaging 22 homers and 93 RBIs, and a futile half season with the Angels at the end of his career, but he did his best work in his first 12 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles.

Mickey Mantle, with 536, is the only switch hitter with more career home runs than Murray, who connected from both sides of the plate in the same game 11 times, a record he shares with Chili Davis. He also holds the record for most games and assists by a first baseman, won three Gold Gloves with the Orioles in the early '80s, played in 90% of his team's total games and ranks 11th in hits, 17th in home runs, seventh in runs batted in, 16th in doubles and eighth in total bases.

Carter, who spent 17 of his 19 seasons with the Expos and New York Mets, is the first player to win election having spent a significant portion of his career with the Expos. He is also only the 13th catcher. The price was nine knee surgeries and "a couple broken thumbs," but Carter is generally considered second only to Hall of Fame member Carlton Fisk in durability and longevity among catchers.

He set major league records for most career putouts and total chances at his position while appearing in a National League-record 2,056 games behind the plate. He also hit 324 homers, drove in 1,225 runs and won three Gold Gloves in achieving a pretty good emulation of Johnny Bench, the catcher he hoped to emulate, and was a pivotal figure in the Mets' 1986 World Series win.

Hall of Fame officials now decide, with contribution from the player, which cap he will wear on his plaque, and Carter said, "my heart is torn. Montreal gave me my chance and I spent a lot of years there, but I won championships in New York, and nothing I did in my career surpassed that. Maybe they can split the cap."

A year ago, Carter's wife, Sandy, had planned a celebration in honor of her husband's election, but the call never came, and Carter said he was forced to console his tearful wife. This time, there were no plans, but Carter carried a cell phone and Sandy drove the golf cart as he shot an 80 at a course near their Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., house, and the call came after he birdied the eighth hole and parred the ninth.

"I punched a fist in the air and quickly forgot about the disappointment of the five previous years," Carter said. "It was a reminder that good things happen to those who wait."

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