Morgan's death another reminder of a painful 2020 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Morgan’s death another reminder of a painful 2020

Joe Morgan
Photo credit: Carrie Cochran - The E

In a year that’s been so unspeakably awful, another Hall of Famer has been taken from us. We were just getting over the news that Bob Gibson had died when Whitey Ford died. Three days later, came word that the great Joe Morgan was gone, too.

In just over six months, Ford, Gibson, Morgan, Lou Brock, Al Kaline and Tom Seaver, six top-shelf Hall of Famers, six authentic legends have died. All but Kaline have died in the last five weeks.

Morgan, who died Sunday at 77, was the greatest second baseman of our time, and some thought of any time. He had not only the counting numbers, 2,517 hits, 268 home runs and 689 stolen bases, but the awards, too.

He was a 10-time All-Star, a five-time Gold Glover and, most important, a two-time Most Valuable Player.

Morgan won his two MVP awards with the Cincinnati Reds, who won the World Series in 1975 and 1976. What’s more impressive is that every position player on that team could have been an MVP candidate.

The Big Red Machine was the last great pre-free agency team. Tony Perez was Cincinnati’s first baseman, and with Morgan at second, Dave Concepcion at short, Pete Rose at third, George Foster in left, Cesar Geronimo in center and Ken Griffey Sr. in right. Johnny Bench, the consensus greatest catcher in baseball history, was there, too.

A team as good as the Reds, as experienced as they were, could never be assembled in today’s game. Morgan’s teammates were so good that each one of them, except for Concepcion, received MVP votes in either 1975 or 1976.

In 1976, when the Reds followed their thrilling seven-game Series win over the Boston Red Sox with a four-game sweep over the New York Yankees, Foster finished second in the MVP voting, and Rose fourth.

Morgan’s greatest competition for the award came from his teammates, and he managed to outshine them.

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Concepcion was an exquisite shortstop who perfected the Astroturf-inspired bounce throw to first on difficult plays at short. Morgan’s double play partner was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glover himself, who received MVP votes in three other years.

Morgan came to the Reds in 1972, and the Reds came within a game of winning the World Series against another outstanding ’70s team, the Oakland Athletics. A year later, the New York Mets’ pitching got hot at the right time, and prevented a rematch with the A’s.

By 1975, the Reds were ready to win, and fans lucky enough to see them in person or watching on television remember Morgan flapping his left arm as he stood at the plate.

Analytics weren’t in vogue during Morgan’s time. We didn’t need them to measure his worth, but his lifetime WAR (Wins Over Replacement) was 100.5, 31st all-time.

When the Reds were broken up at the end of the decade, Morgan moved on to Houston, where he had begun his career, for the 1980 season.

Morgan’s Astros played an exciting National League Championship Series, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth and deciding game by a run in 10 innings.

In 1981 and 1982, Morgan played for Frank Robinson’s San Francisco Giants, narrowly missing out on an NL West title, and in 1983, he joined the Phillies.

Morgan, Perez and Rose, all over 40, styled themselves as the “Wheeze Kids” and faced the Orioles in the World Series.

Morgan homered against Scott McGregor in Game 1, the only one the Phillies won that year.

In his final act, he played for the Oakland Athletics in 1984.

On May 12, Morgan hit a three-run home run against Sammy Stewart in a 12-2 win over the Orioles at Memorial Stadium. Oakland had such a big lead in the ninth inning that manager Steve Boros decided to pinch-hit for Morgan.

Mark Wagner, a utility infielder, batted for Morgan and grounded out against the Orioles’ reliever, Jim Palmer. It turned out to be the final batter Palmer faced because he was released five days later.

In 1990, Morgan and Palmer entered the Hall of Fame together.

Morgan was remembered by fans who didn’t see him play. He was a longtime analyst on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and worked brilliantly with Jon Miller, offering incisive commentary.

Morgan’s death is another  that has hit hard locally and nationally. Just last week, longtime WBAL-TV sports anchor Vince Bagli died, and NBA legend Wes Unseld passed away in June.

So many Hall of Famers gone. Our loss.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

 

 

 

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    October 13, 2020 at 7:42 am

    Definitely our loss, very gritty player, natural leader, sad times…go O’s…

  2. sportscoper

    October 13, 2020 at 9:37 am

    The 2020 All-Star team up there looks pretty imposing.

  3. Bhoffman1

    October 13, 2020 at 10:13 am

    God 77 is so young. He was a great player and a great analyst. RIP with the rest of hall of Famers. Too soon

  4. ballmer bruce

    October 13, 2020 at 11:55 am

    Rest in Peace Joe. A class act on and off the field.

  5. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    October 13, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    He was one of the greatest second baseman in history. I was fortunate enough to see the Big Red Machine play the Padres in 1975 at old Jack Murphy Stadium. I still have pictures that I took along with the game program. They were a dynamic team loaded with stars. Rest in peace Joe.

  6. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 13, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    I have to agree with Grand Stand Bird Fan … he was quite simply the greatest 2nd baseman that I ever saw play the game. And yes, I saw Alomar play.

    Also a pleasure to listen to talk about the game. Rare knowledge.

    RIP Joe.

  7. chico salmon

    October 14, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    Several years ago, I was in Cooperstown with my son for Induction Weekend. Joe Morgan was in a shop on Main Street, where HOFs never ventured. My son, age 14 at the time, recognized Joe and approached him, very respectfully, for an autograph. I’ll never forget his sincerity and humility. He looked around and told my son, “Look, I’ll sign for you, but don’t tell anybody else I’m in here.” When I learned the great Joe Morgan passed, I immediately called my son, now in college, who had instant recall of that encounter. Granted, he never saw Morgan play. My point is that guys like Joe Morgan are the real deal. No prima donna spit in an umpires face. He was the greatest 2nd baseman ever.

  8. Mickraut

    October 15, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    Talent is fleeting. Class is forever.

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