By J.D. Crowe | firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an opinion cartoon.
2020 has hit the Baseball Hall of Fame fraternity hard. We’ve already lost baseball greats Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Whitey Ford this year.
And now Joe Morgan. I have nothing but love for all these great players. But this one really hurts. The speedy Hall of Famer and two-time NL MVP is one of my favorite players of all time. Without Joe Morgan, there would be no Big Red Machine.
‘The best player I ever saw:’ Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan dies at 77
As a kid growing up in rural Kentucky, three seasons determined if a year was good or bad: Tobacco season, University of Kentucky’s basketball season and the Cincinnati Reds’ MLB season. If we had a bad tobacco crop, that just meant our family of five kids might have to skimp on a few things – like Christmas and store-bought school clothes. But as long as the UK Wildcats and/or the Reds were rolling, all was good as far as I was concerned.
In the 70′s, I lived and breathed the Reds. I listened to all their games on the radio. When they played late west coast games on a school night, I hid under the covers with the transistor turned down real low, like it was audio porn or something.
Cincinnati Reds mourn Joe Morgan on Twitter
Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Pete Rose led Cincy to the World Series in 1970, only to be defeated by Brooks Robinson and the all-star pitching staff of the Baltimore Orioles. 1971 was an off year for the Reds, with several key players suffering injuries and slumps. They didn’t make the playoffs. Slugging first baseman Lee May and Gold Glove second baseman Tommy Helms pretty much carried the team and were then traded in the off season. To the Houston Astros. For some little feller named Joe Morgan. The Astros also threw in a pitcher and an out-fielder nobody ever heard of. Reds fans were livid. But not for long.
The minute Joe Morgan put on the Reds uniform in 1972 he transformed the team. With his combination of speed, defense, power, clutch hitting and leadership, Morgan brought electricity to a talented team that seemed stuck in the mud.
Joe Morgan was like Red Bull. He gave the Big Red Machine wings to fly.
In the 70s, all was good in my Kentucky holler hood. Our best tobacco crop ever was in 1975, the year Joe won his first NL MVP and the Reds beat the Red Sox in a World Series classic. In ’76, Morgan was again the NL MVP and the Reds swept the Yankees in the World Series. Don’t remember much about the ’76 tobacco crop, but pretty sure we didn’t go to school nekkid. If we did it didn’t matter.
Excerpts from Cincinnati.com: “Joe wasn’t just the best second baseman in baseball history, he was the best player I ever saw and one of the best people I’ve ever known,” Johnny Bench said. “He was a dedicated father and husband, and a day won’t go by that I won’t think about his wisdom and friendship. He left the world a better, fairer, and more equal place than he found it, and inspired millions along the way.”
“I remember after my second Most Valuable Player Award, Tony Pérez came in one day, I was feeling pretty good, and he said, ‘I want you to remember this: When you played for Houston, no one even knew who you were. We brought you here and made you a star,’ Morgan said in 1990, smiling. “And you know what, he was right. I say thank you to those guys every day.”
More words and stuff
The pitcher in the Astros trade, Jack Billingham, be-came the Reds’ number one starter. The outfielder, Cesar Geronimo, grew into a Gold Glove centerfielder with a Roberto Clemente-esque arm. Nobody with a lick of sense tried to take an extra base on that guy.
Big Red Machine ‘Great Eight:’ Pete Rose, Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster, Davey Concepcion, and Cesar Geronimo.
In a recent Facebook post, I listed Joe Morgan as one of my 10 all-time favorite athletes. Love the guy. He laid it all out on the field as a player. As a sports broadcaster, he laid it all out on the line. Loved his insight and stories from his playing days. Special, inspiring man on the field, in the broadcast booth and in life. Met him once, briefly. He was at a hotel bar with Reds Manager Lou Piniella after a Reds/Padres game in San Diego in 1990. That was the year the Reds went wire-to-wire to sweep the heavily favored Oakland A’s in the World Series. They were talking, I didn’t wanna interrupt. I just did the Goober thing and said, “Hey. Love you, man.”
Rest in power, Joe Morgan.