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Murray, Carter await induction to Hall of Fame

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Outwardly, they couldn't have been more different: Eddie Murray, the silent slugger, and Gary Carter, the nonstop-talking and smiling "Kid."

Yet their lives have been almost mirror images: Both were born in the Los Angeles area, just two years apart; both were drafted in the third round; both played for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers; and both played on one world championship team.

And Sunday, both will enter the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"This is pretty awesome," said Murray, only the 38th player elected in his first year of eligibility. "This is the main place to be. I can't wait."

Carter's election in January came on his sixth try.

"My emotions are running sky-high," he said. "It completes my life, my career."

Joining them on the podium in Cooperstown will be Milwaukee Brewers announcer Bob Uecker, who will be honored with the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, and Ohio sports writer Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, who won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.

Born in 1956, Murray grew up in a family of 12 children. At Locke High School, he starred with fellow Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith and progressed quickly through the minors after the Orioles drafted him in 1973.

After a torrid spring training in 1977, Murray was ready for the next level, and Orioles manager Earl Weaver knew it.

"He burned up the Winter League in Puerto Rico, and all the scouts down there kept telling me he was some kind of player," Weaver said. "At the last cut, they said they were sending him down, and I said, 'You can't. You'll break his spirit."'

So Weaver made Murray the designated hitter and a willing sub for veteran first baseman Lee May. It was a sensitive time.

"It was a bad situation," Weaver said. "I had a veteran (May) who had performed well for us. He was a good first baseman and great guy to have on the team. Maybe people got the wrong impression of Eddie right off the bat."

He certainly made a big impression with his bat, hitting .283 with 27 homers and 88 RBIs — the sort of numbers "Steady Eddie" would produce with amazing regularity throughout his career — and being named AL Rookie of the Year.

While Murray was mauling American League pitchers, Carter was doing the same in the National League and developing into one of the finest catchers in major league history.

As a rookie in 1975, Carter was named to his first All-Star team and finished the season with a .270 batting average, 17 home runs, and 68 RBIs in 144 games.

He became the Expos' full-time catcher in 1977 and developed into one of the game's best defensive backstops. In that first full season behind the plate, Carter led NL catchers in putouts, assists, total chances and double plays.

"All I ever wanted to do was play," said Carter, who had nine knee operations during his 19-year career.