Baseball retains dropping legends in 2020, and Joe Morgan might need been the smallest and mightiest of all of them

It has been a horrible 12 months for thus many individuals, for all of us, together with baseball followers of a sure age.

Al Kaline.

Tom Seaver.

Lou Brock.

Bob Gibson.

Whitey Ford.

They had been amongst our baseball heroes. They confirmed us the way to play the sport. I am 63 years outdated and so they had been my childhood. And so they all died in 2020.

And now, the littlest and mightiest, Joe Morgan, has died.

“There was nobody higher than Joe,” stated Johnny Bench, a former teammate and fellow Corridor of Famer. “And I am not simply speaking about second basemen. I am speaking about any place.”

Morgan is thought to be one of many three biggest second basemen of all time. He’s the one second baseman to win back-to-back MVP awards, which he did in 1975 and 1976 for the Cincinnati Reds‘ well-known Huge Pink Machine. He made 10 All-Star groups, gained 5 Gold Gloves and was elected to the Corridor of Fame on the primary poll in 1990.

He had the fifth-most walks of all time, trailing solely Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. Morgan had 850 extra walks than strikeouts. He had the Eleventh-most stolen bases ever. He hit 268 house runs; Henderson is the one participant in historical past to match Morgan’s totals in house runs and stolen bases.

“We performed in opposition to the Reds within the ’70 World Sequence,” stated Jim Palmer, a former Baltimore Orioles pitcher and a Corridor of Famer. “However they weren’t the Huge Pink Machine till they obtained Joe Morgan.”

Sparky Anderson, supervisor of the Huge Pink Machine, as soon as advised me that Morgan “was an incredible participant till the video games counted most, then he grew to become one of many biggest gamers of all time.”

Morgan’s 1975 and 1976 seasons had been traditionally nice. He led the Nationwide League in OPS in each seasons, together with a 1.020 in 1976. In these seasons mixed, he stole 127 bases and was caught solely 19 instances. He grounded into 5 double performs. He walked 246 instances and struck out 93 instances. He scored 220 runs and drove in 205. He gained a Gold Glove each seasons. These groups had been among the many biggest of all time, perhaps the very best within the historical past of the NL, and their greatest participant these two years was Joe Morgan.

“He did the whole lot,” stated Bench, the Reds’ catcher. “When you wanted a stroll, he walked. Successful, he obtained successful. A double, he hit a double. A homer, he hit a homer. A stolen base, he stole a base. He was nice defensively; the telepathy that he and I had going was superb. It is as a result of he was so sensible, he understood each state of affairs. He affected the end result of each sport. To those that knew him, no phrases had been needed. To those that did not know him, no phrases are enough.”

Palmer was inducted into the Corridor of Fame the identical 12 months as Morgan.

“I’ll always remember the decision I obtained from Jack Lang (of the Baseball Writers Affiliation of America) that I had been inducted,” Palmer stated. “After which he advised me that I’d be getting in with Joe. I believed, ‘Oh my, I’m going in with Joe Morgan!’ He was that good of a participant.”

And to perform all of this at his dimension — 5-foot-7, 160 lbs. — was probably the most exceptional a part of Little Joe. He’s, with Yogi Berra, maybe one of many two greatest gamers of all time underneath 5-8.

“Pound for pound,” Palmer stated, “Joe is perhaps the very best participant of all time.”

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Mike Greenberg displays on the lifetime of Reds second baseman and Corridor of Famer Joe Morgan, who has died at age 77.

Eduardo Perez is the son of Tony Perez, a former teammate of Morgan’s in Cincinnati: “My dad at all times advised me that Joe might need been slightly man, however he had the largest coronary heart of anybody on the sector,” Eduardo stated. “And it wasn’t simply in baseball, it was in enterprise, it was anything he did. He was so aggressive. He at all times needed to be the very best.”

Morgan’s favourite participant of all time was one other second baseman — Corridor of Famer Nellie Fox of the White Sox. Fox, a left-handed hitter as was Morgan, completed with 2,663 hits, a .288 batting common, by no means struck out as many as 20 instances in a season, made 15 All-Star groups and gained the American League MVP in 1959. He was listed at 5-10, however was nearer to 5-8.

“Why would not Nellie be his favourite participant?” Bench stated. “Nellie was a brief second baseman that performed with numerous coronary heart. And nobody performed with extra coronary heart than Joe Morgan.”

Morgan at all times used the smallest glove, the smallest I’ve ever seen utilized by a significant leaguer. He wore such a small glove as a result of, particularly on the double play, he by no means needed to seek for the ball in his glove. With a glove so small, his hand might at all times discover the ball. As he as soon as advised me, with a smile, “you higher have good arms to put on a glove that small.”

I obtained to know Joe Morgan within the 21 years that he labored for ESPN within the sales space on Sunday Evening Baseball with Jon Miller. When Joe talked, I listened as a result of I’ve met only a few individuals who knew the sport higher.

“He was the neatest baseball man I ever met,” stated Corridor of Famer Frank Robinson. “Nobody understood the sport higher than Joe.”

The one time I ever had a problem with Morgan was once I wrote a few years in the past that Dave Winfield was the oldest participant ever to hit a house run within the postseason.

“You missed somebody on that record,” he stated.

I triple-checked. I advised Morgan that, on the time, he was the second-oldest participant to hit a homer within the postseason.

“OK, you are proper,” he stated. “This time.”

That was Morgan. A bit of man, at all times preventing, at all times having to complete first. It’s what he shares with the others who’ve handed in 2020: Kaline, Seaver, Gibson, Brock, Ford. It was a distinct period, a distinct sport, a distinct type of participant. And the passing of every has introduced one other loss.

“How way more gut-wrenching can we get?” Bench stated. “Right now, I misplaced my buddy, my teammate, my comrade, my expensive pal for 40 years.”

After which, with a crack in his voice, Johnny Bench did what he typically does, he sang.

“To know know know you is to like love love you.”

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