Joe Morgan was one of the greatest second basemen in baseball history. He played from 1963-1984 and gained most of his fame by being an integral part of the 1970s Cincinnati Reds teams. Morgan was signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1962. Joe was having trouble with his swing because he kept his back elbow down too low. Nellie Fox suggested to Joe that he should flap his back elbow to keep his elbow up. That became the most distinctive part of Joe's stance at the plate.
Morgan played in the minors in 1963 and 1964. He had a brief September stint with Houston in 1963 (.240 in 8 games). Joe batted .323 with 113 runs, 90 RBI, and 47 stolen bases for AA San Antonio in 1964 and was judged to be ready for the majors. He batted .189 in 10 games for the Colt .45s at the end of the 1964 season.
Joe had an excellent rookie season. He batted .271 and led the NL with 97 walks. He was in double figures in doubles, triples, and home runs. Morgan finished second to LA Dodger Jim Lefebvre in NL Rookie of the Year voting. It was an odd vote since Joe had superior stats in every category except RBI and home runs (Morgan trailed 14 to 12 in that category). It must have been some sort of "pennant-winning team" effect. Little Joe Rookie of the Year? - September 1965 Baseball Digest.
Morgan made his first NL All Star team in 1966 (he didn't get in the game) and batted .285 in 122 games. He missed about six weeks from late June to early August with an injury. Joe played in 133 games in 1967 and batted .275. Morgan missed three weeks in June with an injury.
Joe was hurt and missed most of the 1968 season. He played in six games in April and made four pinch hitting appearances in May. Morgan ended up batting .250 in 10 games.
Morgan came back to play in 147 games in 1969 but his offense wasn't all the way back yet. He batted .236 but walked 110 times to boost his on base percentage to .365. Joe also stole 49 bases -- it was the first of nine straight years of stealing 40 or more bases. He improved to .268 in 1970 and went to his second All Star game (he was 1 for 2 with a run scored).
Morgan led the NL with 11 triples in 1971 and batted .256 in 160 games. Astros manager Harry Walker wanted more power in the lineup so after the 1971 season Morgan was traded (with Cesar Geronimo, Jack Billingham, Dennis Menke, and Ed Armbrister) to the Cincinnati Reds for Lee May, Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart. The trade ended up being a great one for the Reds.
Joe started a string of great years with the Reds in 1972. He made the All Star team every year he was with the Reds (1972-1979) and won five straight Gold Gloves (1973-1977). In 1972 Morgan was fourth in MVP voting as he led the NL in runs (122), walks (115), and on base percentage (.414). Morgan batted .292 and hit 16 homers. He was named the All Star MVP after he singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning. The Big Red Machine Rolls Again - October 1972 Baseball Digest. Morgan batted .250 in the 1972 NLCS and .125 in the World Series. Joe Morgan Talks about Base-Stealing Strategy - December 1972 Baseball Digest.
Morgan finished 4th in MVP voting again in 1973. He batted .290 with 26 HR and 116 runs scored. Joe batted .100 (2 for 20) in the 1973 NLCS. Morgan batted .293 with 22 HR in 1974 but the Reds were beaten out in the NL West by the LA Dodgers that season. Little Joe...Big Man in Reds' Lineup - May 1974 Baseball Digest
In 1975 Morgan won the first of two straight MVP awards. He batted .327 with 17 HR and 94 RBI, walked 132 times, stole 67 bases, and had a .466 on base percentage. Joe had his best postseason in 1975. He batted .273 and stole four bases in the Reds' 3-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Morgan batted .259 in the World Series. Little Joe Morgan: Destsined for the Hall of Fame - October 1975 Baseball Digest.
Morgan batted .320 with 27 HR and 111 RBI in 1976 and was the NL MVP again. He went 0 for 7 (but walked five times and scored four runs) in the Reds' sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS and batted .333 in the World Series. Joe Morgan, Baseball's Most Complete Player in 1976 - December 1976 Baseball Digest.
Joe's stats started to drop in 1977. He was an All Star again (a home run in 4 at bats) and batted .288 with 22 HR and 78 RBI. It was the last season in which he would walk over 100 times (117) or steal more than 40 bases (49). Morgan also won his fifth and final Gold Glove in 1977.
Morgan dropped to .236 in 1978. The fans voted him into the All Star game (1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored) but it was probably his worst season as a regular player.
Joe's last season in Cincinnati was 1979. He made the All Star team as a reserve (Davey Lopes was voted in as the starting 2B by the fans) and went 0 for 1 with a walk. It was Joe's last All Star game. Morgan batted .250 in 127 games. He went 0 for 11 in the NLCS as the Reds were swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Morgan became a free agent after the 1979 season and signed with the Houston Astros. Joe Morgan Hits the Comeback Trail with Houston - May 1980 Baseball Digest.
In 1980 Morgan led the NL with 97 walks. He batted .243 in 141 games and batted .154 in 4 games in the NLCS. Joe Morgan Played Pivitoal Role in Rise of Astros - Baseball Digest January 1981. Joe was released by the Astros after the 1980 season. He later signed with the San Francisco Giants.
Morgan batted .240 in 90 games in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He had a good year in 1982, batting .289 and winning the Silver Slugger Award at second base. Joe homered in the last game of the 1982 season to win the game and knock the LA Dodgers out of the NL West race.
After the 1982 season Joe was traded with Al Holland to the Philadelphia Phillies for Mike Krukow, Mark Davis, and a minor leaguer. He rejoined former teammates Pete Rose and Tony Perez on the Phillies. A Love Triangle: Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, and Baseball - May 1983 Baseball Digest. Morgan batted .230 with 16 HR and 18 stolen bases. He batted .067 (1 for 15) in the NLCS and .263 in the World Series. The Phillies released Morgan after the 1983 season.
Morgan went back home to Oakland to finish his career with the Oakland A's. He batted .244 in 116 games and retired after the season. Joe Morgan Recalls His Favorite Major League Tutor - October 1984 Baseball Digest. Joe was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990. Hall of Fame Inductee Joe Morgan Remembers His Early Mentor - August 1990 Baseball Digest.
After his playing career Morgan went on to become a broadcaster. He started off doing broadcasts for the Cincinnati Reds (1985), San Francisco Giants (1986-1994), and the Oakland A's (1995). He also announced for ABC (1988-1989) and NBC (1994-2000). He is most noted for his Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts with Jon Miller that he has been doing on ESPN since 1990. Joe Morgan Decries Decline of Running Game in the Majors - October 1999 Baseball Digest.
- Here is Night Owl's take on Joe Morgan's 1975 card. He did his entry just two days before mine.
Liked to face: Ray Washburn / Mike Marshall (.462 in 26 AB); Wayne Twitchell (.455 in 33 AB); Tony Cloninger (.455 in 44 AB)
Hated to face: Sammy Ellis (.045 in 22 AB); Pascual Perez (.048 in 21 AB); Joe Sambito (.125 in 24 AB)