At 9:42 ET Friday night, Eddie Murray was seen jumping up and down in the Metrodome.
This is the same Eddie Murray who is the walking definition of deadpan.
But it’s not every day that Murray gets the 3,000th hit of his career. He did it in the sixth inning of the Indians’ 4-1 win over the Twins.
“It feels good to get it out of the way,” Murray said. “I’m hoping that things get back to normal now. The guys on the team have gone out of their way to make jokes, but now the joking is over.”
Maybe not. Wayne Kirby hinted that Murray might be in for some postgame surprises.
“We’ve got a lot in store for Eddie,” Kirby said. “The night ain’t over yet.”
It wasn’t much of a hit. In the trade, it’s known as a turf single. A ground ball that zipped across the carpet until it found a hole between first and second base. It wasn’t struck with much authority, but it was a clean hit on an 0-and-1 pitch by Mike Trombley.
Cleveland’s dugout and bullpen bench immediately emptied, and Murray was swarmed by his teammates. Dave Winfield was the first to put a bear hug on him. Winfield, not so coincidentally, was the last player to reach the 3,000-hit plateau. He also did it in the Metrodome, as a member of the Twins on Sept. 16, 1993.
The celebration at first continued with Murray doffing his cap and raising his hands in triumph, acknowledging the crowd of Twins fans, who gave him a lengthy standing ovation, even though he is not one of their own.
“I still think I’ll appreciate this more when I’m done,” Murray said. “And I know there are people out there who are happier than me right now.
“I would have liked to do it in Cleveland. They had that banner above the outfield (counting down the hits). It wasn’t my idea, but it was all right, watching the guy snatch those numbers off every time I got a hit.”
The historic hit came in Murray’s third trip to the plate. His first at-bat ended in a walk on a 3-and-2 pitch in the second inning. In the fourth, he swung at the first pitch and flied weakly to center field. Rich Becker had inadvertently taken a step back and was forced to charge the ball and make a running catch.
Murray becomes the 20th player in big league history to amass 3,000 hits. He is tied on the career hits list with Cap Anson and Roberto Clemente. Winfield, with 3,098 hits, ranks 14th.
A distinction befell the Indians when Murray singled to right. He is the third player to wear a Cleveland uniform when he reached 3,000 hits. Tris Speaker did it on May 17, 1925, and Nap Lajoie got No. 3,000 on Sept. 15, 1914.
Murray ranks high on many of the career lists. If he continues his career past this season, he undoubtedly will take a crack at 500 home runs. Currently, he has 469, ranking 18th, five homers ahead of Winfield, who is 19th.
Only two players in big-league history have more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs: Henry Aaron, who has 3,771 hits and 755 home runs; and Willie Mays, who has 3,283 hits and 660 home runs.
“Now that I’ve gotten this far, I see that 500 home runs is reachable,” Murray said. “But I’m not going to sit here and worry about it. That would be some company, though.
“I never set 3,000 hits as a goal. I’ve always just tried to do the best I can. Three thousand was just a number.”
Murray also is a prolific producer of runs, ranking 14th in RBI with 1,781. He also is 14th in total bases with 4,995. Murray’s 10,393 at-bats ranks 11th, and he has played in 2,764 games, putting him 18th.
In the final march toward 3,000, Murray seemed a little anxious at the plate, but his quest did not appear to interrupt the rhythm of the Cleveland clubhouse.
“Eddie hasn’t been any kind of a distraction to the team during all of this,” Manager Mike Hargrove said. “And that’s mostly because of the way he approaches going for 3,000.
“He has not played it up like it’s something that’s bigger than the team. He has portrayed this to us as a goal he wants to reach badly, but he has never put it ahead of us trying to win. I guess that’s what makes Eddie Eddie.”
At 39, Murray is in his 19th season and second with the Indians. He broke into the majors with the Orioles in 1977.