(Check out our other player card posts here.)

Pick up almost any Eddie Murray baseball card and you’ll be reminded of two things: Murray could hit a baseball like few other players in history, and he was (almost) always intense on the field.

Murray’s card backs tell you his Hall of Fame story … 3255 hits, 504 home runs, 1917 RBI, 560 doubles, 128 sacrifice flies (a record), .287 batting average over a 21-year career with five teams.

More than 20 years after his retirement, it’s easy to forget just how good Murray was. I have some suspicion that’s partly due to the intensity that was so evident on his card fronts:

1985 Topps Eddie Murray

Of course, a lot of fans and (especially) media members would have called Murray’s demeanor something other than “intense” during his playing days.

Surly was one adjective you heard a lot.

Mean, sometimes.

Moody, definitely.

But there was a lot going on around Murray that most fans never saw, and there were plenty of reasons for Murray to be wary of speaking freely.

I first encountered Eddie Murray — as I did most players — in my baseball cards. He was almost smirking on his 1981 Topps card, but that hand-on-hip pose gave me the notion even then that Murray didn’t have much patience for fools of any sort:

1981 Topps Eddie Murray

 

I didn’t really take notice of Murray, though, until the 1983 postseason. There he hit a home run in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox and then two more in Game 5 — the capper — of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Overall, his postseason numbers were just OK that year — .257, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 7 runs, 1 stolen base.

That’s what the stats say.

In my memory, Murray spent that October doing three things — standing at first base, hitting bombs, and eating peanuts in the dugout between homers. I’m pretty convinced the books have been altered in some way, robbing Eddie of the true thunder he unleashed in those series.

That would be good reason to scowl, right? Murray had been practicing ever since his 1978 Topps rookie card:

1978-Topps-Eddie-Murray

And that’s the way I remember Murray on the field and in my cards. I suspect it’s the same for most collectors.

That’s why my first reaction when I saw his 1977 Baltimore Orioles postcard online recently was that it must be fake somehow. I mean, Murray is leaned in toward the camera, twinkle in his eyes, and he’s smiling.

Here, see for yourself …

1977 Baltimore Orioles Eddie Murray Postcard

 

Could the team have mislabeled some other player with Murray’s name? Did some admiring fan manage to get on the good side of young Murray, snap a quick photo, and then produce a bootleg baseball card?

Or was my long-held perception of Murray just not quite right? Maybe he wasn’t the dark and brooding force I had always been led to believe he was by … well, by my own memory and by various media reports and by my baseball cards (or, again, my memory of them).

So I scanned through Murray’s in-career cards and found that most of them were, indeed sort of fierce looking, like this 1982 Fleer sticker:

1982 Fleer Stickers Eddie Murray

 

Interestingly, though, Fleer also managed to snap a few shots of Smiling(ish) Eddie, like in 1981 …

1981 Fleer Eddie Murray

 

And in 1983 …

1983 Fleer Eddie Murray

And, even in 1984, Murray looked at least interested in what was going on, like maybe he was getting ready to impart some hitting advice to the photographer:

1984 Fleer Eddie Murray

By and large, though, you’re going to find Intense Eddie when you pour through Murray’s baseball cards.

All of which brings us back to that 1977 team-issued postcard. What’s different about that card?

Well, it might just come down to the simplest explanation of all …

Maybe Murray is, as the cliche goes, just happy to be there in that moment.

After all, he smacked 27 home runs with 88 RBI and hit .283 as a 21-year-old rookie in 1977, good enough to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. And whatever slights he suffered that season were probably new enough that he might have been able to shrug them off as flukes.

1977-Baltimore-Orioles-Eddie-Murray-Postcard - feature

Maybe only later would their regularity start to really eat at Murray.

Whatever the case, realizing that this card was issued in Murray’s rookie season — that it is in fact his first card — is perhaps the most important nugget for collectors to take from the glowing, orange-clad Smiling Eddie.

Those Orioles postscards aren’t easy to come by — PSA has graded a total of 10 of them, including four Murrays and six Brook Robinson cards (split between two variations). And on the rare occasion that a Murray specimen pops up on eBay (affiliate link), you could very well pay $100 or more to own it.

But isn’t it cool to know that there is another, earlier Murray rookie card out there than you (probably) ever knew, and that Eddie is pretty much beaming about it?

I’ll answer that one … yes, it is cool.

Even if it seems fake at first.

(Check out our other player card posts here.)

 

 

Eddie Murray 2008 Topps Sterling Jersey Bat Auto Autograph Card #ed 6/10

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1978 Topps Eddie Murray ROOKIE RC #36 PSA 8 NM-MT (PWCC)

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1978 Topps #36 Eddie Murray Baltimore Orioles RC Rookie HOF

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Eddie Murray 2004 Fleer Greats Baltimore Orioles Authentic Auto Autograph

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1978 Topps #36 Eddie Murray BALTIMORE ORIOLES Rookie Card ~ NM

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