Joe Morgan, the tiny powerhouse that drove Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” race in the mid-1970s, is dead, a spokesman for the family and team said Monday.
He was 77 years old.
Morgan died at his home in Danville, California, a suburb of San Francisco on Sunday, according to a family spokesperson.
“The Reds family is heartbroken,” Red CEO Bob Castellini said in a statement. “Joe was a giant in the game and was adored by the fans of this city.”
The Oakland native was named National League MVP in 1
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine praised Morgan as “the greatest second base of all time” and a “kind and genuinely nice person.”
“He was a player who mastered every detail of the game,” DeWine said in a statement on Monday. “We have seen him play many times with our older children – Pat, Jill, Becky and John. It was a thrill to see him!”
Morgan was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1990 after a 22-season career with the Houston Colt .45, Reds, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and Oakland A’s.
The 10-time All-Star Game selection was an all-round offensive force, overtaking 268 home runs and stealing 689 bases. He also had a keen eye for the pot, forcing pitchers to walk him 1,865 times, which increased his career percentage by .392.
Morgan was also a defense wizard, winning five Gold Glove awards for best second baseman in his league.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred called Morgan the consummate “five-gear player” on Monday, meaning he could hit for a high batting average, hit for power, execute bases, defend his position and throw the ball with authority. .
“Joe was a close friend and consultant to me, and I welcomed his views on a number of issues over the past few years,” Manfred said Monday. “He was a true gentleman who cared about our game and the values it represents.”
At just 5 foot 7, Morgan known as “Little Joe” throughout his illustrious career.
“Joe often reminded baseball fans that the smallest player on the field could be the most impactful,” said Manfred.
The lineup of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” teams was filled with fearsome hitters Morgan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and George Foster, and defensive supporters like Dave Concepcion and Cesar Geronimo.
The 1975 World Series is best known for Carlton Fisk’s home run on the left post of the foul that won Game 6 for the Boston Red Sox. An NBC camera captured Fisk dramatically waving his arms wildly, begging the ball to stay correct.
But it was Morgan who delivered the decisive blow to the championship win, with a single RBI in the ninth inning to break a 3-3 draw in Game 7. That scoring success brought home teammate Ken Griffey, the future Hall of Fame father recruited Ken Griffey Jr.
Even after leaving Cincinnati, Morgan was still productive towards the end of his career. At age 39 in 1982, Morgan finished 16th in the National League MVP runoff and ended the season with a dramatic home run that knocked rival Los Angeles Dodgers out of playoff contention.
After hanging up his cleats, Morgan enjoyed a long career on the booth as an analyst for ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball”, collaborating with Jon Miller, radio voice of the Baltimore Orioles and Giants, between 1990 and 2010.
“He had a unique ability to explain what was happening on the pitch to the average fan,” Governor DeWine said. “He was a master at explaining the ‘why’ of baseball.”
Joe Leonard Morgan was born on September 19, 1943 in Bonham, Texas, approximately 80 miles north of Dallas.
The family moved to western Northern California when Morgan was still a child, and he became a multi-sports star at Oakland’s Castlemont High School.
Perhaps overlooked due to his small stature, Morgan didn’t attract much attention from college scouts before signing a free agent contract in late 1961 with the Houston Colt .45s, a franchise that would later be called the Astros.
Morgan posted several productive seasons with Houston, making it to two All-Star Games, and was second in the NL Rookie of the Year race in 1965.
Then, in one of the worst trades in baseball history, Houston knocked out Morgan in a massive eight-player trade after the 1971 season that paved the way for Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” dominance.
He was fourth in the MVP vote in 1972, leading Cincinnati to the NL pennant that season.
Morgan played the game with a cheeky style that could sometimes annoy opponents. He was also known to slam his left elbow into the batter’s box, a technique for keeping the elbow raised.
“Joe wasn’t just the best second baseman in baseball history,” Bench once said of teammate Morgan.
“He was the best player I’ve ever seen and one of the best people I’ve ever met.”
After retirement, Morgan denounced the decline in the number of African American players in baseball.
He was also the victim of a bad arrest at Los Angeles International Airport in 1988 when the police threw him to the ground and handcuffed him, accusing the baseball star of being a drug dealer.
Morgan won a six-figure civilian verdict against the LAPD for that LAX incident.
“The only thing that saved me was a witness standing next to me who flew on the plane with me. If I don’t have his verification, I’m just another black guy who grabbed and shoved,” Morgan said. to Playboy magazine in 1999.
“At trial they said they thought I was a drug dealer. They lied about so many different things.”
The great second base of all time is survived by his wife of 30, Theresa; twin daughters Kelly and Ashley; and daughters Lisa and Angela from her first marriage to Gloria Morgan.
Morgan’s death comes less than a week after the passing of New York Yankees Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford at the age of 91.