Jeff Kent has been in the news a lot lately. The former All Star 2nd baseman can now be seen on the current season of the CBS program “Survivor”. I was not a fan of the show but I decided to tune in because of Kent. After two episodes, which I admit I viewed only sporadically, I will not be a fan in the future. Someone out there can tell me how he does. Anyway, it got me to thinking about the best players at 2nd base which includes the guy right here with the Yankees, Robinson Cano. I know for years the Mets have had a revolving door at the position, one that seems to have no end in sight. One of the best ever to man the position is a guy whose name has been sullied not because of his play but because of his career as a broadcaster. Many fans now, when they hear the name Joe Morgan think of the guy who for over 20 years was one of the voices of ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball”. He also did broadcast work for ABC and NBC for the playoffs and the World Series. Unfortunately, his work on the air has been criticized by many and therefore people forget or don’t realize how great a player he was.
Morgan began his Major League career at the age of 19 in 1963 with the old Houston Colt 45’s (later the Astros). He enjoyed a good deal of success during his time in Houston making the All Star team twice and finishing second for the Rookie of the Year Award in 1965. On August 29, 1971, Morgan was sent to the Cincinnati Reds in an eight player deal that sent slugging 1st baseman Lee May to Houston. It was with the Reds that Morgan catapaulted his game into Hall of Fame territory, becoming a key member of the Big Red Machine. In 1972, his first season in Cincy, Morgan led the National League in on baase average (.417), runs scored (122) and walks (115). The Reds went on to lose the World Series in seven games to the Oakland A’s. Cincinnati would eventually win back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976, cementing themselves as one of the best teams of all time. Leading the charge was Joe Morgan, all 5 foot 7, 160 pounds of him who happened to win the MVP Award in both title years. His numbers for each season were astounding. You decide which one was better. In 1975, he batted .327 with 17 home runs, 94 RBI’s and 67 stolen bases. He also scored 107 runs and led the NL with 132 walks and a .466 on base average. The next year, he hit .320 with 27 homers, 111 RBI’s and 60 stolen bases. He again led the league in on base average with .444 and scored 113 runs with 114 walks. After leaving Cincinnati as a free agent. Morgan returned to Houston for the 1980 season. The Astros reached the playoffs for the first time in their history, losing a thrilling NLCS to the Philadelphia Phillies. He had one last hurrah, with the Phillies in 1983, helping the club reach the World Series before losing in five games to the Baltimore Orioles.
Joe Morgan should defintiely be remembered more for his baseball playing career than his baseball broadcasting career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first try in 1990. In his prime, there was no better 2nd baseman and Bill James ranks him as the greatest one ever. In 1999, The Sporting News put him at #60 on their Top 100 Players of All Time. He finished with a lifetime .271 average with 2,517 hits 268 homers, 1,133 RBI’s and 689 stolen bases. He was a 10-time All Star and 5-time Gold Glove winner. Those numbers far outweigh his “weakness” as an announcer. Fans of all ages should respect Joe Morgan , a true legend of the game.
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