This day, Murray connected big time, whacking the ball on a line toward right field and a sandbox more than 200 feet away. Toddlers thought it safe to play there when grade-schoolers like Murray were batting. But his drive landed in that sand - a prodigious prepubescent poke.
The year was 1966. Ted Williams entered Cooperstown, John met Yoko and transistors blared "Summer In The City." On the hardscrabble diamonds of South Central Los Angeles, a pint-sized kid with a pipsqueak voice began carving his niche. Though built like television's Eddie Munster, he hit like Eddie Monster.
Every time up, it was the same picture: the eager apprentice, coiled to attack. "He looked like a cobra, ready to strike," recalled Clifford Prelow, Murray's first coach. "I was amazed at how he took charge in the box at that age."
Soon after the sandbox blast, Prelow says, the playground rules changed at Will Rogers Park: "During every game, either a parent stood watch in that sand pile, or else everyone vacated the lot."
Undeterred, Murray's rec league team, the Chiefs, left Watts during the violence to practice on other city lots. "We had to get ready for the [9-10] playoffs," Prelow said.
That's how much the neighborhood cared about baseball at the time.
For a quarter-century (1955 to 1980), the playgrounds and parks of inner-city L.A. teemed with a multi-generation tribute to the game: kids bent on following Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron; semipro players aching for one last chance; and artful codgers keen on flaunting the skills they'd learned in the Negro leagues.
Baseball offered relief from the streets and a way out of town for the likes of Reggie Smith, Roy White and George Hendrick. One school, Fremont High, sent 18 players to the big leagues, including Eric Davis and Chet Lemon, Dan Ford and Bobby Tolan.
"As kids, we were always saying, 'Hey, whatcha doin'? Let's go practice,' " said Tolan, a star outfielder in Cincinnati. "Given a choice between going to a party or a game, we'd play ball ... and hope the party was still going on when the game was over."
This was Eddie Murray's world. The eighth of 12 children, he tagged after his siblings, mimicking their baseball ways and taking cuts at makeshift balls. He hit rolled-up socks, dolls' heads, bottle caps and even the plastic lids off Crisco cans.
"We'd eat cherries, then spit the pits out of our mouths and swing at them," Murray said in an interview this month. "Did the same thing with the shells of sunflower seeds. We swung at everything, even butterflies."
At 7, he was batboy of a sandlot team led by future major leaguers Tolan, Dock Ellis, Bob Watson and Dave Nelson and Murray's oldest brother, Charles, whose slugging would carry him as far as Triple-A.
"Eddie studied us all," Nelson said. "He watched. He learned."
"You wanted to absorb everything," Murray said. "Watching your older brothers, and those other guys, was like watching major leaguers play. And you got paid for it - 50 cents a game [as batboy] and a dime for every foul ball you brought back."
After practice, the players let the tyke take a few licks himself.