The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Baseball hall-of-famer Joe Morgan speaks at forum

Standing at only 67 inches (5′ 7″), merely doublethat of the average baseball bat measuring 33 inches, baseball hallof famer Joe Morgan established himself as one of the greatestplayers of his era. His stature never hindered his ability as aplayer and earned him the nickname “Little Joe.”

Morgan’s love for the game of baseball stands taller thanmost of his contemporaries even to this day.

Morgan concluded the 2003-2004 SMU Athletic Forum seriesThursday when he spoke at the luncheon sponsored by the TexasRangers.

Morgan remains close to the game he loves despite retiring in1984 after playing 22 seasons. Now Morgan broadcasts games forESPN.

“The only job better than mine is playing baseball,”Morgan said. “I’m very happy I get a chance tobroadcast the game and stay close to the game.”

Today, Morgan sees a different game than the one he played.

Morgan is sad that the homerun’s role has beenmagnified.

“The homerun is more prevalent now than ever andthat’s not the way to play,” he said. “Gamesshouldn’t turn into a homerun hitting contest.”

As for baseball’s ongoing problem with steroidspeculation, Morgan thinks fans no longer care.

“After a point where you don’t have any answers, whocares?” Morgan said.

Morgan pointed to this year’s record attendance at springtraining to prove fans are more than interested in the game.

Morgan named the Boston Red Sox as the current team to beat inthe East and the Anaheim Angels as the best team in the West.

“A lot of fans think their team can win,” Morgansaid.

Morgan finds no fault in a team, such as the New York Yankees,maintaining dominance in baseball.

“A lot of teams got lazy and said ‘we can’tbeat the Yankees or Red Sox’,” he said. “Baseballneeds a dominant team for everyone to shoot at.”

Other “little changes” Morgan would make includeeliminating the designated hitter, raising the pitcher’smound and reducing the number of interleague games playedthroughout the season.

The changes Morgan would make to the game stem from hisextensive knowledge as a player and an analyst. It is clear Morganmisses the style of baseball teams from his era used to play.

“The more games I broadcast, the more I see how good theteams that played in my era were,” Morgan said.

Morgan started his career with the Houston Astros and was namedNational League Rookie of the Year in 1965, his first full yearwith the Astros.

“I came to Houston as a raw player,” Morgan said.”I learned more in my first year than most players learn infive years.”

“I was ahead of the game.”

After nine years in Houston, Morgan joined the Cincinnati Reds.Morgan’s next eight years as a Red defined his career.

“I was the same guy, I was just on a better team,”he said.

With the Reds, Morgan assisted the team in winning consecutiveWorld Series in 1975-76.

It was Morgan who provided the heroics in game seven of the 1975World Series against the Red Sox. Morgan had the game-winning hit,in what some consider the best World Series of all time.

“He was a key player in … the 1975 WorldSeries,” Texas Rangers owner, Tom Hicks said at the forum.”He was the best all-around player on that team; he couldhit, steal bases, field … he could do it all.”

Morgan thinks the 1976 World Champion Reds that defeated theYankees in the World Series was “the greatest teamthat’s ever played.”

Despite his success in the World Series, Morgan’s memorydrifts back to playing against all-time greats such as Hank Aaron,Willie Mays, and Sandy Kolfax.

“The memories I have of playing those players will staywith me until they close my coffin,” Morgan said.

In his first meeting with Kolfax, Morgan remembers striking outthree times in a row, but before striking out in his third at bat,he hit a foul ball.

“I had nine strikes and a foul against [Kolfax] and I washappy, I went to the bench smiling,” he said. “I fouledoff Sandy Kolfax.”

Morgan went on to enjoy success against Kolfax, later that year,Morgan hit a homerun off Kolfax in the Astrodome.

Players Morgan never got the opportunity to play against butnonetheless were inspirational include Nelly Fox and JackieRobinson.”Jackie Robinson made it possible for me to dreamabout playing baseball,” he said. “Nelly Fox told me‘the guys that stay in the big leagues the longest are theguys that help their team win.”

“I was taught how to respect the game.”

Thirty-seven years after Morgan’s entrance into the game,he received baseball’s biggest honor: induction into theBaseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N. Y., in 1990.

“Only 1 percent of players make it to the hall offame,” Baseball Hall of Fame president Dale Tetroskey said atthe forum. “Joe is one of the greatest players who everplayed the game. He remains one of the most visible hall of famersby virtue of his work with ESPN.”

Morgan, speaking through tears, listed his induction as hisproudest moment in life because it made his parents proud ofhim.

“The guy you see standing before you today is the productof my parents,” he said.

The Baseball Hall of Fame was never Morgan’s goal.

“My only dream was to make the major league, not the hallof fame,” he said. “Obviously I’m proud to be inthe hall of fame, but if I could have played baseball for 20 yearswithout making the hall of fame I’d be happy.”

Morgan’s career statistics and achievements are just asimpressive as his love of the game.

When he left baseball, Morgan had more homeruns than any secondbaseman in history with 268. Today he sits at No. 2 on that listbehind Ryne Sandberg.

He also set a record for second basemen, playing 92 consecutivegames without an error. To complement his field prowess, Morgan wonfive Gold Glove Awards and played in 10 All-Star games. He was theMost Valuable Player in baseball in 1975 and 1976, the same yearsthe Reds won World Series.

When some thought Morgan’s size could inhibit his baseballskills, his blend of speed, power, defensive ability and baseballknowledge made him one of the greatest second basemen to ever playthe game.

“Baseball is not about strength, baseball is a game ofskill,” Morgan said.

“I love baseball, I think baseball is stillAmerica’s national pastime and I’m glad to have beenpart of it all.”

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