“It’s really terrific because I never thought there would be one,” Morgan said. “ I’ve known Shaun [Clancy] for so long and all of a sudden he calls me up and gives me the good news. Next thing you know, here I am, and I’ve enjoyed it a ton.”
|Joe Morgan accepts his plaque from the Irish American Baseball HOF|
The Walpole, Mass., native had his start in baseball at Boston College, where he was signed by his hometown club. Only this time, it wasn’t the Red Sox, it was their National League counterpart, the Braves.
“I was in Boston College and I was one of the first guys that left school [early],” he said. “I left at the end of my junior year because I got a bonus and that was 1952.”
Morgan played two years for their minor league clubs before Uncle Sam called. He spent the next two years in the military, which Morgan said was to the benefit of his baseball career.
“It really helped me,” he said. “ I was lucky, I played a lot of baseball at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, and I tried things I never would have tried. I knew I was a lot better hitter [than what I showed]. I hit .228 and .249 the first two years [before I went into the military]. When I came out, I hit .301, and .316 and I was on my way.”
Morgan made his debut with the Braves in 1959, making the club out of spring training. He played sparingly during the first two months of the season and was traded to the Kansas City Athletics. The Braves finished tied for the National League pennant with the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost a best-of-three game playoff to go to the World Series. Even though Morgan was long gone, the Braves still remembered his contributions to the team at the end of the season.
“I was with the Braves during that year in ‘59 when they lost the playoffs to the Dodgers,” he said. “I was with them for five weeks and they were good enough to give me a quarter share [of the playoff bonus]. That was something! I was rooting for them big that time. I was the lowest guy on the totem pole and they took care of me.”
Morgan was then shuttled between the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies for the next few seasons before landing with the St. Louis Cardinals for a brief appearance in 1964 at the end of their World Series run. The Cardinals wanted Morgan on the postseason roster to replace an injured Julian Javier, but the Yankees wouldn’t budge.
“Now there’s a story there,” he said. “I came up September 10th. Julian Javier got hurt; he pulled a rib cage muscle and he could not play in the World Series, so the Cardinals said, ‘We want to put Joe Morgan on as the 25th player.’ The Yankees said, ‘No way, because he didn’t come up by September 1st.’ That was the rule. They went with 24 players (Javier made only one appearance as a pinch runner) and kicked the s—t out of the Yankees.”
He started his managerial career in 1966 as a player-manager in Raleigh, N.C., with the Pirates and spent the next 26 seasons as a scout, coach and manager, taking the reins of the big league club from John McNamara from 1988-1991. He led the Red Sox to two first place finishes in the American League East during his time as manager. Morgan was ready for the task; the only difference he saw was scale.
“The biggest difference managing in the majors was that they gave me a hell of a lot of money, [something] which I never saw in 30 years in the minor leagues. … I knew the writers and how they operated. I was ready for all of that.”
Morgan, who was a two-sport star in both hockey and baseball, is an institution in his hometown and stays active visiting local high school games. Even though he is easily recognized in the town of Walpole, he still receives fan mail that is intended for the “other” Joe Morgan.
“It’s nice to be remembered,” he said. “I get mail every day. I also get a lot of mail for [Hall of Famer] Joe Morgan, so I write out; try 3239 Danville Blvd, Alamo, CA 94507 - from Joe Morgan manager Boston Red Sox.”