HOF 2018: Morris Turned Disappointment Into Greatness
(Editor's note: Jack Morris will join Trevor Hoffman, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, and Alan Trammel as inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 29. InsideTheSeams.com has taken a look at the career of each of them leading up to the weekend. Today: Jack Morris, the final installment).
Jack Morris arguably turned in the most dramatic pitching performance in World Series history, a 10-inning, 1-0- victory for the Twins against the Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series in front of his hometown fans in the Metrodome.
“It doesn’t get any more important or dramatic or fulfilling,” Morris said . “It was alike a storybook for me, going home, being able to pitch in the World Series in the place I dreamed about pitcying as a kid, and to have that success. … It was pretty awesome.”
Awesome is getting better.
Great as that game was, Morris’ day on Sunday will be even more memorable. He will join former Tigers teammate Alan Trammell, and the quartet of Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero as the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hey, even the stone-faced, growl and scowl Morris got emotional during baseball winter meetings when it was announced that the Modern Era Committee had selected Morris and Trammell to be inducted along with the four players selected by the veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. After coming up short in 15 times on the BBWAA ballot, Morris finally earned his plaque in Cooperstown.
“Time has made this even more special,” Morris, 62, admitted. “I’ve learned a lot along the way.”
He has learned so much that he admits he has refined his speech to try and stay within the prescribed eight minutes, but “I didn’t allow for crowd reaction,and I didn’t allow for Jack Morris emotion time, which I have no way of judging.”
Yep, the man with the steel eyes, who would stare through hitters and shrug off difficult situations on the mound, does have emotions.
And, man does he ever have a big-league resume. There was that Game 7, where he was on stage in the Twin Cities, his home.
There was that 1984 season when the Tigers won their only world championship in the last 45 years.
“It was a special team because of our team, and what we accomplished from the (35-5) start to the end of the World Series,” he said. “And for me, personally, a no-hitter in my second start on three days of rest, five wins in April and six complete games in my eight starts. It was going to be a dominant year.”
There were those back-to-back world championship seasons with Toronto (1992-93).
Oh, the memories that a man who made a Major League record 14 consecutive Opening Day starts has to think about.
Through it all, though, he said there really wasn’t any question about the season he felt made him the Hall of Famer he is. It was his rookie season in the big leagues, 1979, the one that began with being sent back to Triple-A to open the season, and then finally, in mid-May he got the call to the big leagues – for good.
“Last day of spring training, on the team bus waiting to go to the airport, and (manager) Les Moss came on the bus, pulled me off and sent me back to Triple-A,” he said. “I came up in mid-May, won 17 games, and I was not going back to Triple-A after that.”
“That was the breakout year. That was the year everything started coming together.”
That, said Morris, is when he learned what it meant to be a winner, chalking up those 17 wins despite missing the first six weeks of the season, reaching a point where he knew he had the ability to turn a dream into a reality.
“Until you have success, you have doubts,” he said. “I had an arm injury, my shoulder, bout of bursitis, and all that,” he said. “I was wondering if I’d ever feel good again. Then, that winter before (1979) I went down to Puerto Rico. The adhesions broke loose. I got on a good weight program. My arm strength came back. I was free of pain. Therefore, I was free to clear my mind and start throwing again.”
And the season started with him in a snit, pitching for Triple-A Evansville, not the big-league Tigers..
“I went down, had a couple clunkers, and (Jim) Leyland was my AAA manager, and he put me on the right course. He told me, `Grow up, get out there, and pitch your way back to the big leagues. I don’t want to see you again.’ I felt the same way.”
Morris knew there might still be some reservations after he had spent a rookie season with the Tigers in 1978, battling the arm problems that led him to spend that winter pitching in Puerto Rico. A 3-5 record, 4.33 ERA for a guy who primarily worked long relief, starting in only seven of his 28 appearances, wasn’t a down payment for any type of a big-league job in 1979.
He felt so good after that winter ball experience – too good for his own good, which is where Leyland came to the rescue.
“He aired me out, and I deserved it,” said Morris. “I thank him `til this day because you don’t see that anymore. It was tough love. He cared about me, but he also saw me miserably failing because my attitude and pouting and walking around like `What am I doing here.’ I wasn’t pitching and he said, `You gotta pitch. That’s the only way you’re getting out of here is to get out there and pitch’
“I got it. I was into self-pity. I totally understand where he was coming from. He was a good human being and a good manager. I took it to heart. He made sure I understood that isn’t the way you succeed. I went out there determined to pitch well. I had two good ones in a row, and I was out of there.”
And then, shortly after Morris returned to the Tigers, Sparky Anderson took over as the manager.
“He taught me baseball,” said Morris. “He taught me what it was to compete and win and finish games.”
He taught Morris well. From that shaky beginning he had a career that in the end saw him with a resume that features wins, 15 seasons of double-figure win totals, 12 of which saw him win 15 or more games.
And he did it all in the American League in the era of the DH, becoming the first pitch to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame to have never faced a regular-season lineup in which a pitcher was hitting.
It all started to come together in that summer of 1979, when he met up with Sparky for the first time.
“I will never know where I would have been without him, but I do know he had a lot do to with what I accomplished,” said Morris. “The ultimate question is, `Would it have been different without him?’ I don’t know that answer.
“What I believe is everything happens for a reason, and when I look back I think about how fortunate I was, playing for guys like Leyland and Sparky and Tom Kelly and Cito (Gaston). They were influences in my career.”
They helped put the pieces in place for a career that took Morris to the Hall of Fame, where he will be forever remembers with the greats of the game.