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Kevin Murray is once again eligible to serve as...

By BRUCE NICHOLS

HOUSTON -- Kevin Murray is once again eligible to serve as a Texas A&M quarterback but his legal fight to leave the Milwaukee Brewers' baseball organization is not over.

U.S. District Judge Gabrielle McDonald Wednesday refused to bar Murray, 18, from playing football until a breach of contract lawsuit filed by the Brewers comes to trial.

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Also named as defendants in the suit are Texas A&M and football Coach Jackie Sherrill.

The judge ruled Murray breached his contract with the Brewers and in so doing was no longer bound by a contract clause that forbade him to play football. She also ruled the contract amounted to involuntary servitude, prohibited by the 13th Amendment.

Attorney John Dawson, who represented the Brewers, said he would consult his client before deciding whether to pursue the case further.

In arguments before the judge ruled, Dawson said the principle favoring contract enforcement 'is well established.'

'I am concerned with Mr. Murray's argument that simply by reneging on a contract he can avoid enforcement of it. 'So what?' is essentially what they're saying,' Dawson said.

Murray's lawyer, Michael Swan of Houston, told the judge that because Murray no longer wants to play baseball, even for another baseball team, the Brewers' only legal remedy was to demand their $35,000 signing bonus back.

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'To enforce it (the no-football provision) would be involuntary servitude,' Swan argued.

Dawson agreed the Brewers wanted to cause Murray 'to reconsider his options' but disputed the suggestion Murray was being forced into slavery or his options in life were forelosed.

'He can do anything he wants except play football,' Dawson said.

Murray said he was 'very happy' about the ruling, which frees him to participate in pre-season practices next August pending any other court rulings on the suit.

Murray, who graduated from North Dallas High School in the spring of 1982, signed a national letter of intent to play football for Texas A&M in February 1982. In June, he signed the baseball contract with the Brewers.

He played 10 weeks for the Brewers' rookie league team in Pikeville, Ky., and several more weeks for an Arizona instruction league team as an outfielder and designated hitter. Swan said he had a batting average of about .170.

He was a third-string quarterback for the Aggies when Judge McDonald issued a temporary order April 13 forbidding him to practice.

Swan argued Murray believed he honored his contract not to play football for one year -- he would have been eligible as a freshman last fall -- and was misled into thinking he would not be bound longer than that.

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The contract in fact included six successive one-year renewal options for the Brewers.

In testimony, Brewers administrative assistant Dan Duquette said Murray told him he received $200 a week, a car and credit cards from Texas A&M alumni while a senior in high school. Murray took the witness stand to deny that testimony.

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