By Charlie Vascellaro
It’s been 20 years since Baltimore Orioles fan favorite “Steady Eddie” Murray retired after 21 years in the big leagues, 13 of them in Baltimore. However, the Hall of Famer who belted 504 home runs, earned 1977 American League Rookie of the Year honors and was a member of the Orioles’ 1983 World Series championship team hasn’t been content to rest on his many laurels.
Among his post-baseball endeavors, Murray has been a supporter of Baltimore’s Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, most notably putting his name on a wine whose proceeds have been donated to the museum.
The wine fundraiser was first launched in 2015, but a limited amount of the wine will be re-released in the spring/summer of this year.
Murray, a native Californian with an abiding interest in wine and wine making, lent his name and celebrity to The Roundtripper, a 300-bottle limited edition 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine — with a distinctive label that pays tribute to Ruth and Murray — was introduced in September 2015, with the proceeds earmarked for the Babe Ruth Museum.
It wasn’t Murray’s first association with the wine business. Previously, his name was on the Eddie Murray 504, a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon produced for the Charity Wines fundraising organization.
“About 15 years ago, I really discovered a love and passion for wine, especially those made in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys,” Murray said. “For the last 10 years, I have been visiting and tasting the wines from those areas and been fortunate to taste with many of the owners and winemakers of some of the best wineries in the area.”
Murray continues to make frequent visits to Napa Valley with his friend Bruce Gearhart, president of Baltimore-based Bacchus Importers Ltd.
It was while visiting and conducting wine tastings in Napa Valley with Gearhart that Murray was introduced to renowned winemaker Ken Deis, and The Roundtripper project was launched. And just like a winning baseball team, the group that put together The Roundtripper had all-star credentials.
Deis has produced a variety of wines that have frequently received scores of 90-plus from wine advocate critic Robert Parker of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines. Deis contacted fellow vintner/winemaker Joe Cafaro of Cafaro Cellars wines in Napa Valley to obtain the grapes used for the initial vintage. Cafaro’s resume includes making wines for Chappallet, Keenan, Acacia, Robert Sinskey and Dalla Valle wineries, prior to founding Cafaro Cellars in 1986.
The grapes were picked, vinified and then tasted from the barrel where the final blend was chosen and then aged for two years before being bottled and made available for the fundraiser event in 2015 at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. Murray is a member of the museum’s Hall of Fame, and Gearhart is a member of the board of directors.
The Roundtripper’s colorful label displays crossed bats with the numbers 3 and 714, and 33 and 504 in recognition of Ruth and Murray’s uniform numbers and career home run totals.
Since retiring as a player after the 1997 season at the age of 41, Murray has remained active in the sport. He returned to the Orioles as a bench coach in 1998 and worked as a hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians from 2002-05 and for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006.
Most recently, Murray was in the news for the groundbreaking of Eddie Murray Field at BGE Park, located behind James Mosher Elementary School in west Baltimore, home of the James Mosher Baseball League that has been in continuous operation since 1960.
Murray keeps a permanent residence in his native California, but he maintains a presence in Baltimore, where he remains actively involved in a number of charitable organizations, including schools for at-risk children. And he makes it a practice of returning for most of the Orioles’ major reunion events.
Issue 231: March 2017