mcloudyn.png
Tuesday December 1st, 2020 1:19AM

Joe Morgan, driving force of Big Red Machine, dies at 77

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

CINCINNATI (AP) — At 5-foot-7, he was the smallest cog in the Big Red Machine. And to his star-powered teammates, Joe Morgan was a driving force, too.

Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman who became the sparkplug of dominant Cincinnati teams in the mid-1970s and the prototype for baseball’s artificial turf era, has died. He was 77.

He died at his home Sunday in Danville, California, family spokesman James Davis said in statement Monday. Morgan was suffering from a nerve condition, a form of polyneuropathy.

“Joe Morgan was quite simply the best baseball player I played against or saw,” Reds Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench texted to The Associated Press.

Morgan’s death marked the latest among major league greats this year: Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver and Al Kaline.

“All champions. This hurts the most,” Bench said.

Morgan was a two-time NL Most Valuable Player, a 10-time All-Star and won five Gold Gloves. A dynamo known for flapping his left elbow at the plate, Little Joe could hit a home run, steal a base and disrupt any game with his daring.

Most of all, he completed Cincinnati’s two-time World Series championship team, boosting a club featuring the likes of Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Bench to back-to-back titles.

“Joe would always amaze me,” Rose told the AP. “He was by far the most intelligent player I've ever been around. He rubbed off on all of us. A big part of the Big Red Machine.”

Morgan’s tiebreaking single with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 7 in 1975 gave the Reds the crown in a classic matchup with Boston, and he spurred a four-game sweep of the Yankees the next season.

Morgan was the league’s MVP both years. And his Hall of Fame teammates and manager readily acknowledged he was the one that got it all started.

Often regarded as the greatest second baseman in history, he was an easy first-ballot pick for Cooperstown.

“He was just a good major league player when it didn’t mean anything,” former Reds and Tigers skipper Sparky Anderson once said. “But when it meant something, he was a Hall of Famer.”

In a 22-year career through 1984, Morgan scored 1,650 runs, stole 689 bases, hit 268 homers and batted .271. But those stats hardly reflected the force created on the field by the lefty-swinging No. 8.

Confident and cocky, he also was copied. His habit of flapping his back elbow as a way to keep it high when hitting was imitated by many a Little Leaguer in Cincinnati and beyond.

Health issues had slowed down Morgan in recent years. Knee surgery forced him to use a cane when he went onto the field at Great American Ball Park before the 2015 All-Star Game and he later needed a bone marrow transplant for an illness.

In his prime, Morgan helped to revolutionize the game with his quickness and many talents, especially once he hit the turf at Riverfront Stadium. His statue outside Great American Ball Park portrays him in motion, naturally.

“Packed unusual power into his extraordinarily quick 150-lb. fireplug frame,” he was praised on his Hall of Fame plaque.

There were moments of silence held at Petco Park in San Diego before the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros played Monday in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series and at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, before the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves met in the NL Championship Series opener.

“He meant a lot to us, a lot to me, a lot to baseball, a lot to African Americans around the country. A lot to players that were considered undersized,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, a longtime friend and National League rival. “He was the one of the first examples of speed and power for a guy they said was too small to play.”

Morgan got his start with Houston in 1963, when the team was called the .45s and still played on grass. Once he became a full-time player in 1965 when the club became the Astros and moved into the Astrodome, he began to provide a glimpse of what speedy, multi-skilled players could do on the new kind of turf.

The Reds had already built a formidable team, but they came up short in 1970, losing to Baltimore in the World Series. Cincinnati made a shocking trade for Morgan after the 1971 season, giving up slugger Lee May and All-Star second baseman Tommy Helms in an eight-player swap.

Morgan turned out to be exactly what the Reds needed to take the next step.

“Joe made us better, and we made him better,” Rose said. “We put him in the spotlight. It was a perfect fit.”

Rose was the dashing singles hitter, on his way to becoming the game’s career hits leader. Bench supplied the power. Perez was the clutch hitter. And Morgan did a bit of everything, slashing hits and stealing bases whenever needed.

Skilled at drawing walks, and helped by a small strike zone, Morgan led the NL in on-base percentage in four of his first five years with the Reds, and finished with a career mark of .392.

“That’s when the game went to more speed,” Rose once said. “There were guys who did more, but Joe stole bases when everyone at the park knew he would. He didn’t waste steals. He made them count. Joe probably could have stolen more. Lots of guys just steal to run up the numbers, and then they can’t when it counts to win the game. Joe made them count.”

Morgan scored a major league-leading 122 runs in his first season with the Reds and they reached the 1972 World Series, where they lost in seven games to Oakland.

Morgan hit .327 with 17 homers, 94 RBIs and 67 stolen bases in 1975, then followed with a .320 average, 27 homers, 111 RBIs and 60 steals the next year. He was only the fifth second baseman in the NL to drive in more than 100 runs and also led the league in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage in 1976.

The next year, he led off the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium with a home run against future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer.

“Small in stature like his idol Nellie Fox, Joe played every game at the highest level. Maybe proving to himself and everyone else that he belong. Did he ever!" Bench said.

A series of injuries in the late 1970s diminished Morgan’s production — the years of throwing his body around on the turf had taken a toll. The Reds decided to dismantle the Big Red Machine, prompting Morgan to also leave.

He spent the 1980 season with Houston, helping the Astros to a NL West title. He played two years with San Francisco — hitting a home run on the final day of the 1982 season against the rival Dodgers to knock the defending champions out of the playoffs — and later was reunited with Rose and Perez in Philadelphia.

Morgan hit two home runs in the 1983 World Series as the Phillies lost in five games to Baltimore, and tripled in his final at-bat.

Morgan finished as a career .182 hitter in 50 postseason games. He played in 11 different series and batted over .273 in just one of them, a stat that surprises many considering his big-game reputation.

Raised in Oakland, Morgan returned to the Bay Area and played the 1984 season for the Athletics before retiring.

Morgan set the NL record for games played at second, ranked among the career leaders in walks and was an All-Star in every one of his years with the Reds.

After his playing career, he spent years as an announcer for the Reds, Giants and A’s, along with ESPN, NBC, ABC and CBS. He was analyst for ESPN's Sunday night telecasts from 1990-2010 and won two Sports Emmy Awards as an Event Analyst — ESPN’s first two wins in the category, in 1998 and 2005.

Morgan also was board vice chairman of baseball's Hall of Fame and on the board of the Baseball Assistance Team.

Morgan was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1990. The Reds also inducted him into their Hall of Fame and retired his number.

“He did it all, and he did it all the time,” said Bench, the first member of the Big Red Machine to enter the Hall.

“Great father and outstanding businessman. He was a friend to so many and respected by all,” he said.

Morgan recognized his place on one of baseball’s all-time greatest teams.

″Bench probably had the most raw baseball ability of any of us,” Morgan said before his Hall of Fame induction. “Pete obviously had the most determination to make himself the player he was. Perez was the unsung hero. I guess I was just a guy who could do a lot of things."

He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Theresa; twin daughters Kelly and Ashley; and daughters Lisa and Angela from his first marriage to Gloria Morgan.

Funeral details were not yet set.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Entertainment, APOnline Celebrity News, AP Sports - Major League Baseball
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Kyrgyz president declares new state of emergency
Kyrgyzstan’s president has ordered a new, week-long state of emergency in the country’s capital after parliament failed to approve his previous order within the legally required three days
10:58AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Tanzania intensifies repression ahead of polls, says report
International human rights group Amnesty International says Tanzania's government has intensified repression of opposition parties and the news media ahead of elections set for Oct. 28
10:53AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Technical problems arise as early voting starts in Georgia
Long lines of people eager to cast ballots have formed in Georgia on the state's first day of early in-person voting
10:51AM ( 27 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
French Open champ Swiatek rises to 17th; Djokovic, Nadal 1-2
French Open champion Iga Swiatek has joined the Top 20 for the first time by rising 37 spots in the WTA rankings to a career-best No. 17
9:46AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP source: Bills-Titans on with no positives for TN, Pats
A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press the Buffalo Bills’ game with Tennessee remains on schedule for Tuesday night after the Titans had no positives
8:51AM ( 2 hours ago )
Bach and Mori give pep talk to heads of Olympic delegations
IOC President Thomas Bach and Tokyo Olympic organizing committee head Yoshiro Mori have given an online pep talk to national Olympic committee representatives to allay fears about the postponed games
8:30AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
LEADING OFF: Fans back as Braves, Dodgers open NLCS in Texas
For the first time since spring training shut in mid-March because of the virus, fans will permitted back in the ballpark
8:54PM ( 14 hours ago )
A capsule look at the Braves-Dodgers playoff series
A capsule look at the best-of-seven NL Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers in Arlington, Texas, beginning Monday night
11:14AM ( 1 day ago )
LEADING OFF: Rays' Snell, Astros' Valdez meet in ALCS opener
Houston and Tampa Bay are set to open their AL Championship Series in San Diego, with Astros left-hander Framber Valdez opposing 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell
2:07AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Baseball
Iran shatters its single-day record for virus deaths, cases
Iran has announced its highest single-day death toll from the coronavirus, for the second day in a row, with 272 people killed
10:29AM ( 49 minutes ago )
Iran shatters single-day record for new deaths, virus cases
Iran has announced its highest single-day death toll from the coronavirus, for the second day in a row, with 272 people killed
10:18AM ( 1 hour ago )
Barrett's Supreme Court hearing opens as GOP seeks speedy OK
Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing has begun as the Republican-led Senate is charging ahead to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with President Donald Trump’s pick before Election Day
10:16AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Iran has highest daily virus death toll, new patient count
Iran has announced its highest single-day death toll from the coronavirus, for the second day in a row, with 272 people killed
8:45AM ( 2 hours ago )
Supreme Court nominee Barrett faces Senate despite virus
Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett are set to begin
8:08AM ( 3 hours ago )
2 Stanford economists win Nobel prize for auction theory
Two American economists have won the Nobel Prize for improving the theory of how auctions work and inventing new and better auction formats that are now woven into many parts of the economy
7:51AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
COVID-hit UK arts groups welcome government cash infusion
The British government has announced grants of $335 million to help almost 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic
10:25AM ( 53 minutes ago )
Killer Mike to earn Change Maker Award at Billboard Awards
Grammy-winning rapper and social-political activist Killer Mike will receive the first Billboard Change Maker Award at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards
10:06AM ( 1 hour ago )
Norway's aging king discharged after heart surgery
King Harald V of Norway has been discharged from the main hospital in Oslo after a successful operation to replace a heart valve
8:18AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Paris Hilton protest calls for closure of Utah school
Paris Hilton has been speaking out about abuse she said she suffered at a boarding school in Utah, and on Friday she took her push nearly to the school’s front doors
8:53PM ( 2 days ago )
The Latest: Judge won't block NY plan to limit gatherings
A federal judge has refused to block New York’s plan to temporarily limit the size of religious gatherings in COVID-19 hot spots
7:34PM ( 2 days ago )
Whitey Ford, Hall of Fame ace for mighty Yankees, died at 91
The great New York Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford has died
7:15PM ( 2 days ago )
APOnline Celebrity News
LEADING OFF: Rangers, MLB ready ballpark to host NLCS fans
Baseball’s postseason gets a full day off from games before the AL Championship Series opens Sunday
9:19PM ( 2 days ago )
Jimmie Lee Solomon, ex-MLB executive, dead at 64
Jimmie Lee Solomon, a top executive for Major League Baseball under Commissioner Bud Selig who established youth academies and helped launch the annual Futures Game of top prospects, has died at age 64
7:07PM ( 2 days ago )
Back from virus, Freeman makes NLCS in 11th year for Braves
Star first baseman Freddie Freeman recovered from a serious bout of COVID-19 in July in time to play a full season and help the Braves to their first NLCS since 2001
5:29PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Sports - Major League Baseball
Kyrgyz president declares new state of emergency
Kyrgyzstan’s president has ordered a new, week-long state of emergency in the country’s capital after parliament failed to approve his previous order within the legally required three days
10:58AM ( 21 minutes ago )
Tanzania intensifies repression ahead of polls, says report
International human rights group Amnesty International says Tanzania's government has intensified repression of opposition parties and the news media ahead of elections set for Oct. 28
10:53AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Technical problems arise as early voting starts in Georgia
Long lines of people eager to cast ballots have formed in Georgia on the state's first day of early in-person voting
10:51AM ( 28 minutes ago )
Danes start culling 2.5 million minks after virus hits farms
The culling of at least 2.5 million minks in northern Denmark has started, authorities said Monday after the coronavirus has been reported in at least 63 farms
10:50AM ( 28 minutes ago )
EU to slap sanctions on Russia officials over Navalny attack
European Union foreign ministers has agreed to impose sanctions on Russian officials and organizations blamed for the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok
10:46AM ( 32 minutes ago )