Wednesday, January 15, 2014

#628 - Ivan Murrell

Just to shake things up, Topps offers us another final card, this one in the form of an action shot of Ivan Murrell at first base in what appears to be Jack Murphy Stadium (thanks Paul). He certainly could have had a card for ’75 since he put in a decent amount of time for Atlanta in ’74. Action cards are always a good way to go out and the ’73 season was as representative as any for Ivan’s career. Most of his early work was pinch hitting but he wasn’t cracking .200 in that role; he did that for a bit in some starts at first in early June while Nate Colbert was down. But then he faded again and was still around .180 when he got a bunch of starts in center in September and hit .304 for the month. His big problem offensively is reflected in his walk and strikeout totals for the season – two and 52, respectively, in his 210 at bats. Ivan was a big guy and therefore had a big strike zone but those numbers would make even Dave Kingman turn red. This photo is probably from a game during his September run so he gets to be memorialized from a happy time in his career. And that Padres yellow actually looks pretty good in profile.

Ivan Murrell was born in Panama and grew up in Costa Rica but would return to his home country from time to time. He must have been huge compared to the other kids in Costa Rica, which is probably why he picked up the nickname “Bull.” His dad was a big deal cricket player in Panama and Ivan returned there for high school where he played soccer, basketball, volleyball, and finally baseball his senior year. An amateur boxer and excellent soccer player, he was training for a career in either when he was spotted by a Houston scout and signed in ’63. He had a tough time that summer in A ball, hitting .221, but still made his Colt .45’s debut that September in one of those all-rookie games the team did to raise its profile. He didn’t hit much better his second A level stop in ’64 but he did add some power, posting a .220/10/51 line. In ’65 he hurt his knee during spring training, required surgery, and missed the whole season. He returned in ’66 to post his best A stats with a .253/12/63 line and finally seemed to be on a good roll when he followed that with a Triple A line in ’67 of .289/14/82 with eight triples and twelve stolen bases before returning to Houston where he hit well in his few games. In the minors that year he led all league outfielders in putouts. In ’68 he channeled his ’65 spring training experience by injuring his heel but made the Astros Opening Day roster anyway. That injury really impaired his stroke and that .102 average wasn’t getting him anywhere and so in early July after scant usage he was returned to Triple A where his numbers didn’t improve too much. At the end of the year he was selected by San Diego in the expansion draft.

In his initial year with the Padres Murrell settled into a fourth outfielder role, putting in most of his time in center behind Cito Gaston. While his D was spotty and his 65 strikeouts were pretty high, he was one of the team’s most consistent hitters. In ’70 he upped his at bats a bit by moving primarily to left as incumbent Al Ferrara was in phase-out mode and topped out in homers with twelve. But it was the same story with too many errors and too many K’s. So in ’71 when Ferrara was pretty much gone and Gaston went into his big swoon, instead of Ivan getting more plate time, he was leap-frogged on the depth chart by Larry Stahl and new guy Leron Lee. Again, Ivan put in most of his time in left and his fielding improved a bunch but in ’72 with Jerry Morales ready to be a regular and Johnny Jeter brought in as savior – that didn’t work – Ivan got returned to Triple A where he had a bang-up season, posting a .335/14/62 line while fielding well. After his return in ’73 he was taken off waivers by Atlanta right at the end of training camp in ’74 for whom he did first base and outfield work while hitting .248 with twelve RBI’s in 133 at bats. He finished his MLB time with a .236 average with 33 homers and 123 RBI’s. In his 1,372 plate appearances he walked only 44 times while striking out 342 times.

In ’75 Murrell put in nearly a full season of Triple A ball for Atlanta while playing nearly exclusively in the outfield and posting a line of .266/12/26 in just over 300 at bats. He then spent ’76 in the Mexican Leagues where he appears to have learned some plate discipline because when he returned to the San Diego system in ’77 he put up a .342/24/98 line with just 68 K’s in his 448 at bats. But those numbers weren’t enough to get him back so he returned to Mexico where he played for various times through ’83. He then got into coaching and scouting, which he did for the San Diego, Oakland, Cleveland, and Mets organizations by the time he did a season of Senior League ball in ’89. He then relocated to St. Lucie full time to continue coaching for the Mets and then do so for some local high schools and colleges. He also was an ESL instructor at the schools and then got into individual coaching. Late in 2006 he was found to have stomach cancer from which he passed away two days after its discovery. He was 63.

That three-game run from the first star bullet was named specifically on Ivan's '72 card and occurred from May 30 to June 1 of '71. His big minor league stats from '72 make the second star bullet. Regarding the cartoon, he was supposedly selected for the Pan Am games of '63 for Panama's entry but opted to sign with Houston instead. As an amateur boxer he was also reportedly undefeated.
The big Watergate theme now is the White House taping system revealed in Alexander Butterfield’s testimony:

7/18/73 – Around this time it is believed that President Nixon ordered the taping system in his office be turned off, a couple days after Butterfield’s testimony. Both the Senate Committee and Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox requested samples of the recorded tapes but both were rebuffed.

7/23/73 – President Nixon sends the Senate Committee, in care of its chairman, Senator Sam Ervin, a letter in which he refuses to hand over any tapes requested by the committee. Both Ervin and vice-chairman Howard Baker express remorse at this decision, Ervin calling Watergate “the biggest tragedy ever suffered by this country.” Nixon indicated in his letter that the basis for his refusal was both the potential mis-interpretation of statements made on the tapes regarding Watergate and its tangential activities and other sensitive topics of discussion not related to the scandal. At the same time a White House aide, Charles Alan Wright, sent Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox a letter denying him access to the tapes as well. Cox responded immediately with a subpoena seeking eight specific tapes. The matter was now in the hands of the Supreme Court.

7/24/73 – John Erlichman takes the stand in front of the Senate Committee for the first time. He defends his role in the break-in of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist – a memo released earlier in June already established his involvement so he was past denying it – as necessary to protect national security. He also disputes many specifics of John Dean’s testimony the prior month. At this point though, at least publicly, pretty much every one of Dean’s assertions that has been able to be proven or disproven – particularly the existence of the taping system – has fallen under the prior category so Erlichman’s testimony is widely believed to be suspect.

The best way to get these two final card guys together is through the NL so here goes:

1. Murrell and Leron Lee ’71 to ’73 Padres;
2. Lee and Carl Taylor ’70 Cardinals.


  1. It isn't Riverfront because it's a grass and dirt field. I think it's a home game. They wore the yellow uniforms at home.

  2. Ah, yes, that yellow line on the wall throws me. I will fix the narrative. Thanks Paul.