Joe Morgan, Corridor of Fame Second Baseman, Is Useless at 77
Joe Morgan, the Corridor of Fame second baseman who was the Nationwide League’s Most Useful Participant for 2 consecutive seasons and the engine of the Large Crimson Machine — because the Cincinnati Reds of the Nineteen Seventies, one among baseball’s strongest groups, have been recognized — died on Sunday at his dwelling in Danville, Calif. He was 77.
A household spokesman stated the trigger was nonspecified polyneuropathy. Morgan had a bone-marrow transplant in 2016.
Morgan’s was the most recent in a string of latest deaths of Corridor of Fame baseball stars, following these of Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford.
For youthful followers, Morgan could also be primarily acquainted as a tv commentator, most memorably for ESPN, for which he shared a Sunday night time broadcast sales space with Jon Miller for 21 seasons. For anybody who noticed Morgan play, nevertheless, particularly in his most interesting years with the Reds, his efficiency on the sphere is way extra memorable.
At 5-foot-7 and 160 kilos, Morgan, who was generally referred to as Little Joe, was among the many smallest nice gamers within the historical past of the sport. He was additionally among the many best second basemen, and a few, like Invoice James, the groundbreaking interpreter of statistics, say he was the best of all.
He gained 5 consecutive Gold Gloves, led Nationwide League second basemen in fielding share 3 times and completed second six others. In an period when sliding base runners routinely tried to take out the second baseman to forestall double performs, Morgan was often known as particularly powerful within the pivot.
However he was most distinguished as a participant for being a run-producing drive on the plate and on the bases. Although his lifetime batting common over 22 seasons, .271, was not extraordinary, for six straight years within the coronary heart of his profession he hit .288 or higher, walked greater than 100 instances and scored greater than 100 runs. 4 instances in these six years, he led the league in on-base share.
He had shocking energy for a person his measurement, hitting at the very least 22 dwelling runs in 4 seasons and 268 general, and he was among the many most achieved base-stealers of all time. He stole 689 bases, baseball’s Eleventh-highest complete, in 851 makes an attempt, for an 81 p.c success price.
Morgan made his massive league debut with the Houston Colt .45s (now the Astros), a second-year Nationwide League growth workforce, in September 1963, simply after his twentieth birthday. The following yr he got here below the tutelage of Nellie Fox, a veteran second baseman on the finish of his profession, additionally small in stature, whom Morgan credited with serving to him mature as a participant.
It was Fox who recommended to Morgan that if he held his left elbow larger within the batter’s field — the rear elbow for a left-handed hitter like Morgan — he wouldn’t hit below the ball as typically and would hit fewer pop-ups and extra line drives.
To assist him bear in mind, Fox recommended that, simply earlier than the pitcher delivered, Morgan flap his elbow the best way a hen flaps his wing. Morgan employed this distinctive movement, which generally appeared to be convulsive, all through his profession, and it grew to become a sort of trademark.
Fox, a future Corridor of Famer, joined the Astros in 1964. Morgan changed him because the common second baseman in 1965, and in 1966 he made the primary of his 10 All-Star groups.
“Fox drove one level dwelling very laborious,” Morgan stated in an interview with The New York Publish in 1976. “He stated if you lay down the bat and decide up the glove, overlook about hitting. Once you decide up the bat, overlook about every thing dangerous that occurred within the discipline.”
After the 1971 season. Morgan, who had feuded with the Houston supervisor, Harry Walker, was traded to the Reds. It was an unpopular commerce in Cincinnati on the time as a result of two of the Reds’ stars, Tommy Helms and Lee Might, have been despatched to Houston. The Reds already had a robust nucleus; managed by Sparky Anderson, they’d gone to the World Collection in 1970, dropping to the Baltimore Orioles, however had light to fourth within the Nationwide League West division in 1971.
After the commerce they rebounded, profitable the division in 1972 and going to the World Series, the place they misplaced in seven video games to the Oakland Athletics. Morgan, together with different gamers within the commerce — outfielders Ed Armbrister and Cesar Geronimo and pitcher Jack Billingham — grew to become helpful cogs within the dominating Large Crimson Machine, which produced six Nationwide League M.V.P.’s, gained 5 division titles and appeared in three World Collection from 1970 to 1977.
In 1975, that workforce, whose stars included future Corridor of Famers at catcher (Johnny Bench), first base (Tony Perez) and second base (Morgan), and the all-time hits chief (Pete Rose) at third, gained 108 video games and defeated the Boston Crimson Sox in one of the most memorable World Series in history.
Morgan, the league’s M.V.P., batted .327 for the season, hit 17 homers, drove in 94 runs, stole 67 bases and gained a Gold Glove. He didn’t have an incredible postseason, however within the ninth inning of the seventh sport of the Collection, he drove within the profitable run with a single to middle. The following yr, once more the league M.V.P., his manufacturing was arguably even higher: a .320 batting common, 27 homers, 111 runs batted in, 60 stolen bases in simply 69 makes an attempt, a league-leading slugging share (.576) and one other Gold Glove.
The Reds weren’t fairly as dominant through the season — they gained six fewer video games — however they powered by way of the postseason, sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies in three video games for the Nationwide League pennant and the Yankees in 4 video games within the World Collection.
“Joe Morgan was a genuinely nice participant,” Invoice James wrote in his analytic quantity, “The Invoice James Historic Summary.” His 1976 season, James wrote, which included main the league in sacrifice flies (12) and fewest double performs hit into (two), “is the equal of something ever finished by Lou Gehrig or Jimmie Foxx or Joe DiMaggio or Stan Musial.”
Joe Leonard Morgan was born in Bonham, Texas, north of Dallas close to the Oklahoma line, on Sept. 19, 1943, to Leonard and Ollie Mae (Cook dinner) Morgan. He was 5 when his mother and father moved the household — Joe would finally be the oldest of six — to Oakland, Calif., the place his father labored for a tire and rubber firm and inspired his curiosity in baseball, taking him to minor league video games (there have been no main league groups on the West Coast till 1958) and educating him the rudiments of hitting and fielding.
Morgan, who idolized Jackie Robinson, was a star second baseman on Castlemont Excessive College’s league champions; one among his teammates, Rudy May, went on to pitch for 4 main league groups, together with the Yankees, profitable 152 video games within the massive leagues.
Morgan additionally performed and excelled for Oakland Metropolis School, the place scouts took discover. One reportedly tried to curiosity the Mets, then a fledgling franchise, in signing Morgan, however solely the Nationwide League’s different growth workforce, Houston, was . He spent a lot of the 1963 and 1964 seasons within the minor leagues earlier than taking on from Fox as Houston’s common second baseman.
By the top of the Nineteen Seventies, the Large Crimson Machine was kaput. Anderson was managing in Detroit; Rose was enjoying for the Phillies; Perez had left for Montreal after which Boston; and after the 1979 season Morgan, then 36, grew to become a free agent and signed along with his former workforce in Houston. After one yr there, he performed three extra, with stints in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Oakland, earlier than retiring on the finish of the 1984 season at 41; he hit a double in his remaining at-bat. Jim Palmer, the star Oriole pitcher, retired that season as effectively, and in 1990 the 2 males have been first-ballot inductees into the Hall of Fame.
After his enjoying profession, Morgan entered a number of enterprise ventures — he operated Wendy’s franchises and a Coors beer distributorship — and philanthropic enterprises. He joined the board of the Baseball Help Crew, which gives monetary assist for former main and minor leaguers, Negro leagues gamers and others previously affiliated with skilled baseball who’ve fallen on laborious instances. He additionally served on the board of the Nationwide Baseball Corridor of Fame. And he completed faculty, incomes a bachelor’s diploma from the College of California, Heyward.
He started working as a broadcaster within the mid-Eighties, first domestically in Cincinnati and San Francisco, later for ABC, CBS and NBC. However his public profile didn’t stop his being mistaken for a drug courier and knocked to the bottom by policemen at Los Angeles Worldwide Airport in 1988. Morgan, who claimed he was focused as a result of he was Black, sued town. The case was settled in 1993 for $796,000.
Morgan’s most distinguished tv position was on ESPN’s “Sunday Evening Baseball,” the place he appeared from 1990 to 2010. Teamed as colour commentator with Miller, an upbeat play-by-play man who was the lead broadcaster for the Giants and a Corridor of Fame inductee in 2010, Morgan was a well-liked determine inside the sport and with many followers, however over time he grew crusty and disputatious on the air — “the Grumpy Previous Analyst,” Richard Sandomir called him in The New York Times.
A self-described “baseball traditionalist,” Morgan was particularly recognized, and generally ridiculed, for the disdain he often expressed for the statistics-based strategy to the sport described in Michael Lewis’s best-selling 2003 e-book, “Moneyball” — a philosophy of roster-building and sport administration that has now been accepted as knowledge by analysts of each stripe and tailored in numerous modifications by nearly each workforce within the main leagues.
Morgan’s marriage to Gloria Stewart led to divorce. His survivors embody his spouse of 30 years, Theresa; their twin daughters, Kelly and Ashley; and two daughters from his first marriage, Lisa and Angela.
In his induction speech on the Corridor of Fame in 1990, Morgan amused the gathering with a narrative about being a small man in a giant man’s sport, although he embellished historical past just a bit bit.
“The Corridor of Fame is absolutely simply icing on what has been a really massive and filling cake for me,” he stated. “Actually, making it to the foremost leagues was so necessary to me I bear in mind my first at-bat prefer it was yesterday.”
What he described was in truth his second big-league at-bat, on Sept. 22, 1963. (His first, the day earlier than, resulted in a pop-up to second base).
“My first at-bat was within the backside of the ninth inning in opposition to the Philadelphia Phillies,” Morgan stated. “The Phillies have been combating for the Nationwide League pennant. The profitable run was on second base” — truly it was on third — “and I bought a base hit and the profitable run scored. And Gene Mauch, who was the supervisor of the Phillies, was so mad that when he went into the clubhouse he yelled at his gamers, and instructed them, ‘You guys bought beat by a man that appears like a Little Leaguer.’
“Properly,” Morgan stated, “he was proper.”