Oakland Tribune - June 12, 1980

Giant’s hitting quiets critics


By Nick Peters, Tribune Staff Writer


PHILADELPHIA – Rich Murray joined the Giants last week with a reputation for having a “bad attitude.”


As far as his teammates are concerned, the rookie first baseman is just plain "bad," which means good.


Murray, a replacement for ailing Mike Ivie, got a hero's welcome in the Giants' clubhouse Wednesday night after knocking in four runs with a two-run homer and a pair of singles during a 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.


“I was just frustrated in the minors. Everyone wants to reach the majors." Murray said. This is the place to be, and I really wasn't all that discouraged because I knew I'd make it somewhere."


You'd never know it by checking his minor league record. The 6-4, 195-pound, right-handed hitter was the rage of the Giants' camp in 1978, but he batted .281 with only five homers and 58 RBI at Phoenix.


Last season was even worse. His average dipped to .263 with five homers and 67 RBI, hardly nothing to suggest he might be the Giants' first baseman of the future. Murray also didn't show much enthusiasm this spring.


"He never had the best of attitudes in spring." said Willie McCovey. He was down because there was no chance for him to play.


“But I told him I was in the same situation when I came up. Orlando Cepeda had just been named Rookie of the Year and Bill White was coming out of the service. But things work out. You never know in this game.


“We really haven't talked much since the spring – he just came up." McCovey said. “I'm not that much of a prophet to judge him after five or six games. It's just a matter of time.”


When the Giants shipped Murray back to Phoenix this spring, he began working mostly at third base since Ivie figured to be the first baseman for several years. Murray batted only .262 in 50 games but had seven homers and 31 RBI.


“We had him at third base to increase his versatility,” explained Manager Dave Bristol. “I had a talk with Rich this spring and I had no quarrel with his attitude. He went down because he needed a place to play.


“As far as I'm concerned, he no longer has a bad attitude. That's something which developed in the past because he probably felt he should have made this club sooner. He got into a negative syndrome and just wasn't doing much.


“But I like what I've seen this week,” Bristol stressed. “We’ve faced a lot of good pitching and it hasn't scared him off. I also like the way he fields. I'm gonna keep him in there for awhile even if Ivie comes back."


Second baseman Joe Strain, who played at Phoenix, said Murray, was misunderstood.


“Rich was kind of laid-back and quiet, but you could see he had talent. Strain recalled. “He just needed work on his hitting.”


The word was that Murrays low PCL averages were the result of difficulty with the curve. But it was a slow breaking pitch from Randy Lerch that Murray belted for a two-run homer in the first inning at Veterans Stadium.


“The curve wasn't my big problem," Murray said. “I have trouble with all pitches sometimes. I made a slight adjustment this spring, holding my bat higher, but I was batting .215 before I got hot the last two weeks at Phoenix.


“As for my reputation, well, I cant help that. I'm just not rah-rah,” added Murray, younger brother of Oriole Eddie.


"I like the way he swings the bat." offered batting coach Jim Lefebvre. “He gives us pop. and if he keeps hitting, it will really help Jack Clark. The only thing we did with Rich in the spring is shorten his swing a bit, making it quicker.”


Whatever the reason, Murray lifted his average from .143 to .263. He also has six RBI – all in the last two games – in 19 at bats. Ivie has six in 103 trips and McCovey has 13 in 105.


Murray's performance, curiously, made Clark and winning pitcher Ed Whitson almost inconspicuous following the game. Clark contributed a double, triple and his 11th homer.


“Rich's hitting means a whole bunch to me," said Clark. “I also like him because he plays hard. If he keeps hitting. I'll get better pitches to hit and it’ll help everybody.”