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Larry Murray

February 11, 2018

Larry Murray

I look and have always looked to these cards for the comfort of facts. Here are some facts:

  1. Hall of Famer Eddie Murray had a brother who played major league baseball, but it wasn’t Larry Murray. Larry Murray was just some guy named Larry Murray.
  2. Larry Murray spent parts of six seasons in the majors, his last coming in 1979, when he recorded career highs in many categories, including home runs, RBI, and batting average. These personal bests were 2, 20, and .186, respectively.
  3. The last time I’ll ever talk to my father was over the phone this past Christmas.
  4. This is Larry Murray’s only baseball card. He takes his stance before a sky of blue, but the heroic blue-sky pose, a signature of the prolific bay area Topps photographer Doug McWilliams, is deflated somehow by the bulky green windbreaker collar jutting out from under Larry Murray’s uniform. Anyway, heroism is beyond the realm of facts.
  5. My father kept talking about the end of the world. I was at my in-laws’ house, and my young sons were downstairs playing with their new toys. I wanted to be with them. I kept looking for an opportunity to wrap things up. My father kept talking about the end of the world.
  6. Ecological ruin
  7. Poverty
  8. Famine
  9. War
  10. 108 losses. That total by the 1979 Oakland A’s would have been the most games lost by any team in the entire decade of the 1970s had not the Toronto Blue Jays amassed 109 losses in that very same year, but the A’s were the inferior of the two outfits, based on the following subset of facts:
    1. The A’s scored 40 fewer runs and allowed only 2 fewer runs than the Blue Jays.
    2. The teams played a weighted schedule with more games against intra-divisional opponents, and the Blue Jays were in a division in which every other team was above .500, including one team with over 100 wins, two teams with over 90 wins, and one two-time defending World Series Champion, the Yankees, who had 89 wins; the A’s, by contrast, were in a division in which the winner, the Angels, would have finished fifth had they been in the AL East.
    3. The Blue Jays beat the A’s 8 out of 12 times they played them in 1979.
  11. I can’t remember with exactitude any of our last words together. But near the end of the long catalog of ruinous facts there was something like this: “Do you, Josh Wilker, pledge to fight injustice and inequality every day for the rest of your life?” Before waiting for an answer, and perhaps sensing that I was on the verge of blurting an annoyed reply, my father continued, “Do I, Louis Wilker, pledge to fight injustice and inequality every day for the rest of my life?”
  12. Larry Murray is a murmuring, comforting sound. Nothing too dramatic is at stake. No great heroism, no great loss. Larry Murray. Larry Murray. Larry Murray.
  13. In 1977 or 1978, my father, who was not a sports fan, saw Reggie Jackson in a ticker tape parade in New York City and was impressed. There was a larger than life sense emanating from Reggie. Most of us are nobody special, at the mercy of historical forces that dwarf us, erase us. Not Reggie, or so he believed with such force that everyone in his path believed it too.
  14. I felt relief when I was finally able to press the hang-up icon on my cell phone.
  15. A couple of years before my father marveled at Reggie, Reggie had been the heart of the glorious Oakland A’s dynasty. That glory left when Reggie left. He was traded after the 1975 season along with Ken Holtzman and minor leaguer Bill VanBommel to the Baltimore Orioles for Don Baylor, Paul Mitchell, and Mike Torrez. Mitchell pitched five games for the A’s and then was purchased by the Seattle Mariners. Baylor played one season for the A’s and then left in free agency for the California Angels. Torrez pitched one full season for the A’s and then early in the following year was traded to the Yankees for Dock Ellis, Marty Perez, and Larry Murray. Ellis pitched seven games for the A’s before being purchased by the Texas Rangers. Perez played a full season for the A’s and then was released part way into the next season. The last echo of Reggie Jackson on the A’s was Larry Murray.
  16. Larry Murray, Larry Murray, Larry Murray.
  17. I still have the record of the call on my phone. It was shorter than I thought it had been.
  18. Dec 25
  19. 1:06 PM
  20. Outgoing call
  21. 29 min 50 sec
  22. Larry Murray’s last appearance on a major league diamond occurred before 2,583 people in late September 1979. Actually there were probably fewer than that number on hand by the time Larry Murray entered the game. It was the bottom of the ninth, and the A’s were losing by two to the Kansas City Royals. Jeff Newman drew a two-out walk. Larry Murray was summoned to pinch run. A Wayne Gross single moved him to second. Jim Essian lined a Dan Quisenberry pitch to left. The left fielder Willie Wilson glided toward it. Larry Murray was running toward home, presumably. But how would I know? And what does it matter?

2 comments

  1. Wow, Josh! That struck the exact right tone to get me crying this morning. Nice work!

    As my beautiful daughter approaches a year, I am starting to think about all my frustrated or unnecessarily terse interactions I have with my parents, and will this future befall me when Elle is my age and I, my parents’ age.

    What little I know is that, even if I annoy her or she is short with me, she will love me and I will know it. I hope and imagine your father felt the same way.


  2. Thank you Josh.



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