Morgan, who later became a well-known television commentator, was among the smallest great players in the history of the game and among the biggest second baseman
Joe Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman who was the National League’s MVP for two consecutive seasons and the engine of the Big Red Machine – like the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s, one of baseball’s most powerful teams, were known – died Sunday at his home in Danville, Calif. He was 77 years old
A spokesperson for the family said the cause was unspecified polyneuropathy Morgan had a bone marrow transplant in 2016
Morgan was the latest in a string of recent Hall of Fame baseball star deaths, following those of Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford
For younger fans, Morgan may be primarily familiar as a TV commentator, especially for ESPN, for which he shared a Sunday night broadcast booth with Jon Miller for 21 seasons. However, for anyone who has seen Morgan play, especially in his prime with the Reds, his performance on the pitch is much more memorable.
At 5-foot-7, 160 pounds, Morgan, who was sometimes referred to as Little Joe, was among the smallest greats in the history of the game He was also among the greatest second baseman, and some, like Bill James, the revolutionary interpreter of statistics, say he was the tallest of all.
He has won five consecutive Golden Gloves, led the National League second baseman three times, and finished second six more In an era when slippery baseline runners routinely tried to eliminate the second baseman to avoid double plays, Morgan was known to be particularly tough at the pivot.
But he was especially distinguished as a player for being a producing force in the plate run and at the bases Although his 22-season batting average, 271, was not extraordinary, for six straight years. in the heart of his career, he hit 288 or better, walked over 100 times and scored over 100 points Four times in those six years he led the league in percentage based on
He had surprising power for a man his size, hitting at least 22 home runs in four seasons and 268 overall, and he was among the most accomplished base thieves of all time.
Morgan made his Big League debut with the Houston Colt 45s (now the Astros), a National League sophomore expansion team, in September 1963, just after his 20th birthday The following year, he came under the tutelage of Nellie Fox, a veteran second baseman at the end of his career, also short, who Morgan credited with helping him mature as a player
It was Fox who suggested to Morgan that if he held his left elbow higher in the batter’s box – the back elbow for a left-handed hitter like Morgan – he wouldn’t kick under the ball as often and hit less. pop-ups and more line readers
To help him remember, Fox suggested that just before the pitcher was delivered, Morgan wiggles his elbow like a chicken flaps its wing Morgan has used this distinctive movement, which at times seemed convulsive, throughout his career, and it has become something of a trademark
Fox, future Hall of Famer, joined the Astros in 1964 Morgan replaced him as a regular second baseman in 1965, and in 1966 he made the first of his 10 All-Star teams
“Fox drove a very hard point home,” Morgan said in an interview with the New York Post in 1976 “He said when you put the bat down and grab the glove, forget to hit When you take the bat, forget everything that happened on the pitch «
After the 1971 season Morgan, who had rivaled Houston manager Harry Walker, was traded to the Reds It was an unpopular business in Cincinnati at the time because two of the Reds’ stars, Tommy Helms and Lee May, were sent to Houston The reds already had a solid core; Led by Sparky Anderson, they went to the World Series in 1970, losing to the Baltimore Orioles, but passed out in fourth place in the NHL West Division in 1971
After the trade they rebounded, winning the division in 1972 and making it to the World Series, where they lost in seven games to Oakland Athletics Morgan, along with other players in the trade – the outfielders outsiders Ed Armbrister and Cesar Geronimo and pitcher Jack Billingham – became useful cogs in the dominant Big Red Machine, which produced six National League MVP’s, won five division titles and appeared in three World Series from 1970 to 1977
In 1975, this team, whose stars included future Hall of Famers at catcher (Johnny Bench), first base (Tony Perez) and second (Morgan), and all-time leader (Pete Rose ) in third, won 108 games and beat the Boston Red Sox in one of the most memorable world series in history
Morgan, the MV of the league VP, hit 327 for the season, hit 17 home runs, recorded 94 points, stole 67 goals and won a golden glove He hasn’t had a great playoffs, but in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the series, he led in the winning inning with a center single The following year, again the league MVP, his production was arguably even better: a 320 batting average, 27 home runs, 111 runs scored, 60 bases stolen in just 69 attempts, a slugging percentage leading in the league (576) and another golden glove
The Reds haven’t been so dominant this season – they’ve won six fewer games – but they have flown through the playoffs, sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies in three games for the National League pennant and the Yankees in four World Series games
« Joe Morgan was a really great player, » wrote Bill James in his analytical volume, « The Bill James Historical Abstract » His 1976 season, wrote James, who included leading the league in sacrificed flights (12) and the least number of successful duplicates in (two), « is the equivalent of anything that has been done by Lou Gehrig or Jimmie Foxx or Joe DiMaggio or Stan Musial »
Joe Leonard Morgan was born in Bonham, Texas, north of Dallas, near the Oklahoma Line, on September 19, 1943, to Leonard and Ollie Morgan was 5 when his parents moved the family – Joe would eventually be the oldest of six – in Oakland, Calif., where his father worked for a tire and rubber company and encouraged his interest in baseball, taking him to minor league games (there was no major league teams on the West Coast until 1958) and teaching him the basics of hitting and pitching
Morgan, who idolized Jackie Robinson, was a featured second baseman on league champions Castlemont High School; one of his teammates, Rudy May, went on to pitch for four major league teams, including the Yankees, winning 152 major league games
Morgan also played and excelled for Oakland City College, where the Boy Scouts noticed One reportedly tried to interest the then-nascent Mets in signing Morgan, but only the other expansion team in the National League, Houston, was interested He spent most of the 1963 and 1964 seasons in the minor leagues before succeeding Fox as Houston’s regular second baseman.
In the late 1970s, the Big Red Machine was kaput Anderson leading in Detroit; Rose was playing for the Phillies; Perez had left for Montreal then Boston; and after the 1979 season Morgan, then 36, became a free agent and signed with his former team in Houston.After a year there he played three more, with stays in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Oakland , before retiring at the end of the 1984 season at age 41; he hit a brace in his batting final Jim Palmer, the Oriole’s star pitcher, also retired that season and in 1990 both men were inducted in the first round into the Hall of Fame
After his playing career, Morgan embarked on several business ventures – he operated Wendy’s franchises and a Coors beer distributor – and philanthropic ventures He joined the board of the support team in baseball, which provides financial assistance to former major and minor leagues, black league players, and other former professional baseball affiliates who have gone through tough times He also served on the board of directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and graduated from college, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Heyward
He started working as a broadcaster in the mid-1980s, first locally in Cincinnati and San Francisco, then for ABC, CBS and NBC But his public profile did not prevent him from being mistaken for a smuggler drug and thrown to the ground by police at Los Angeles International Airport in 1988 Morgan, who claimed he was targeted because he was black, sued the city.The case was settled in 1993 for $ 796,000
Morgan’s most prominent role on television was in ESPN’s « Sunday Night Baseball, » where he appeared from 1990 to 2010 Associated as a color commentator with Miller, an upbeat player who was the main broadcaster of the Giants and Hall of Fame inductee in 2010, Morgan was a popular figure in the game and with many fans, but over time he grew. crisp and controversial on air – « The Grumpy Old Analyst », Richard Sandomir called him in the New York Times
A self-proclaimed « baseball traditionalist, » Morgan was particularly known, and at times ridiculed, for the disdain he frequently expressed for the statistical approach to the game described in Michael Lewis’ best-selling 2003 book, « Moneyball – a philosophy of rostering and game management that has now been accepted as wisdom by analysts of all walks of life and adapted in various modifications by virtually every major league team
Morgan’s marriage to Gloria Stewart ended in divorce His survivors include his 30-year-old wife, Theresa; their twin daughters, Kelly and Ashley; and two daughters from his first marriage, Lisa and Angela
In his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1990, Morgan amused the gathering with a story about being a little man in a big man’s game, though he did embellish a little history
“The Hall of Fame is really just the icing on what has been a really big, hearty cake for me,” he said. “In fact, getting into the big leagues was so important to me that I remember my first batting game like it was yesterday »
What he described was actually his second big league batting, September 22, 1963 (His first, the day before, resulted in a pop-up at second base)
“My first at bat was down the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies,” Morgan said “The Phillies were fighting for the National League pennant The winning point was on second base” – in fact c ‘was the third – « and I got a hit and the winning point scored And Gene Mauch, who was the manager of the Phillies, was so angry that when he walked into the clubhouse he screamed after his players and said to them: ‘You got beaten up by a guy who looks like a little league »
Joe Morgan, Cincinnati Reds, National League, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Big Red Machine
EbeneNews – United States – Hall of Fame second Joe Morgan is dead at 77