Aside from his comedy chops and penchant for crashing engagement photos and bachelor parties, Bill Murray is well-known for his love of baseball. He spent three days watching Cubs games with writer Peter Richmond back in 1990, he recently showed up to take tickets at the Minnesota minor-league baseball team he co-owns, and he was inducted into the South Atlantic League Baseball Hall Of Fame back in 2012 for his role as “Director Of Fun.” But a lengthy oral history from Fox Sports proves Murray has good reason to earn a spot in a Baseball Hall Of Fame. In the summer of 1978, fresh off his first season of Saturday Night Live and in between filming Meatballs, Murray spent a few weeks playing professional baseball with the Grays Harbor Loggers of Aberdeen and Hoquiam, Washington.
Murray served as a coach and occasional pinch hitter for the Loggers, and like most things he does, it’s a bit hard to figure out his impetus for joining the team (in addition to playing and coaching he used his time there to film a “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” piece for SNL). While Murray is notably absent from the oral history, author Rob Neyer interviews the coaches, players, and regular townsfolk who spent part of their summer with the legendary comedian
The piece is full of small town charm, like that fact that the Loggers neglected to tell the local paper Murray would be batting so they didn’t send a photographer to capture his one and only hit. Those interviewed tell stories about Murray winning dance contests, handing out free beer to the crowd (and briefly getting arrested for it), and even inviting Loggers pitcher Fran Hirschy to be an extra on SNL. (Hirschy, in turn, recalls watching John Belushi go from “bombed out of his mind” to “funny as hell” the moment the cameras turned on).
It’s a sweet, nostalgic piece, with one woman describing the ceramic figurine she made for Murray and wondering if he still thinks about his time with the team, while another man cracks jokes about thieving Japanese whores. Plus a player named Rickey Hill explains, “Off the field was pretty chaotic. We would have Murray come over and stay at our house. I don’t want to say everything we did. It was the late ’70s. Bill was just one of the guys.”
All that and much more can be found over on Fox Sports.