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B-fuddled

By Eddie Matz | Posted 1/15/2003

Last week, I climbed up into my parents' attic in search of a dusty old cardboard box. You know the one--the elementary-school box.

It's the box with those cheesy class photos from each year, where the two littlest kids sit Indian style (I believe they call it cross-legged now) in the front, holding the black placard with the white magnetic letters that spell out the school's name, the teacher's name, the grade, the room number, and the year.

It's also the box with those old typewritten report cards. The ones that explain the grading scale at the top:

A = Superior or outstanding achievement (90-100)

B = Above average or satisfactory achievement (80-89)

C = Average or satisfactory achievement (70-79)

And so on.

A day earlier, Eddie Murray had been voted into the Hall of Fame, garnering 85.3 percent approval from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

In other words, they gave him a B.

These are supposedly the most knowledgeable baseball writers in the country--after all, in order to vote you have to be a Baseball Writers' member with a minimum of 10 consecutive years experience covering baseball for a publication. And yet these people gave the greatest switch-hitter of all time (with apologies to the August 1985 version of O's outfielder Mike Young) a B. A freakin' B!

Are you kidding me? I haven't seen judgment this poor since Leonardo DiCaprio signed on to star in The Beach.

The good news is, a player only needs 75 percent of the vote to be inducted into the Hall, so No. 33 is headed to Cooperstown in July (and therefore, so am I). But thanks to the baseball writers, there will be a big fat scarlet b emblazoned on his plaque.

For those of you unfamiliar with Murray's résumé, let's review quickly.

He's one of only three players in major-league history to reach 500 home runs (504, 17th all time) and 3,000 hits (3,255, 12th all time). The other two are Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, who got an A+ (97.8 percent of the vote in 1982), and Willie Mays, who got a solid A (94.7 percent) in '79.

Murray's one of only eight players in major-league history to play in 3,000 games (3,026, tied for sixth all time). Of the other seven, three are not yet Hall-eligible (Pete Rose, Rickey Henderson, and Cal Ripken). The other four are Aaron, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, and Carl Yastrzemski. Of these fine gentlemen, the lowest grade given by Hall voters was to Stan the Man, who got an A in 1969 (93.2 percent).

And Eddie gets a B?

For the love of Lambda Lambda Lambda, even Ozzie Smith, who collected 28 homers and 793 RBIs in his entire career while posting a pedestrian .262 average, got an A- (91.7 percent last year).

Murray is a former Rookie of the Year, eight-time All-Star, and three-time Gold Glove winner who ranks seventh on the all-time RBI list (1,917).

That's a B?

And let's not even get started on how clutch he was. From the time I was in second grade until the time I was allowed to stay up late enough for the entire game (sixth grade, I think), breakfast conversation at 4040 Carthage Road went like this:

Me: "Did the Orioles win last night?"

Dad: "Yup."

Me: "How'd they do it?"

Dad: "Came back in the ninth."

Me: "Who got the game-winning ribbie?"

Dad: "Murray."

That's how it went every single morning from May through September. (The one thing Eddie couldn't do was hit in April.)

The guy hit something like .937 for his career with the bases loaded. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating. But left-handed or right-handed, home or away, day or night, you just knew Eddie was going to get the job done. Only Lou Gehrig (23) hit more grand slams than Murray's 19.

Does that sound like B work to you?

To the 423 voters who checked Murray's name on the ballot, thank you. Thank you for doing your job and recognizing the obvious. To the 73 voters who passed Murray over, I have two questions: What the hell are you smoking? And where can I get some?

With such an undeniably prolific career, we can only assume that those who snubbed Eddie did so because of his reputation for being aloof with the media. If that's the case, then shame on them.

Last summer, I was in the Giants clubhouse, where I had the displeasure of being yelled at by another player with a bad media reputation: Barry Bonds. No other athlete--not in baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or even skateboarding--has ever treated me so rudely.

Granted, I haven't been a sportswriter for all that long. Matter of fact, I've yet to meet the 10-year requirement to become a Hall voter. But if I ever have the chance to vote Bonds in, I wouldn't hesitate for a second. Because his achievements, like Murray's, are outstanding. Superior. Not merely above average.

Eddie deserved an A.

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