Joe Leonard Morgan (born September 19, 1943) was a standout at Castlemont High School before being signed by the Houston Colt .45’s as an amateur free agent in 1962. Joe played for the Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and Oakland Athletics from 1963 to 1984. He won two World Series championships with the Reds in 1975 and 1976 and was also named the National League MVP in those years. Considered one of the greatest second basemen of all-time.
MLB Playing Career
Although Morgan played with distinction for Houston, the Astros wanted more power in their lineup. As a result they traded Morgan to the Cincinnati Reds as part of a blockbuster multi-player deal on November 29, 1971. While the Astros got power-hitting Lee May, the deal is now considered one of the most one-sided trades in baseball history. To this day it is considered an epoch-making deal for Cincinnati and one of the worst trades in Astros’ history. The deal facilitated a shift in Reds team philosophy towards speed over power, with Morgan and outfielder Pete Rose now two key figures batting back-to-back. Morgan added unusual home run power (at that time) for a second baseman to outstanding speed on the basepaths and excellent defense. After joining The Big Re Machine, Morgan’s career reached a new level. This included eight consecutive All-Star Game appearances (1972–1979) to go along with his 1966 and 1970 appearances with Houston. Morgan, along with teammates Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and Dave Concepcion, led the Reds to consecutive championships in the World Series. Morgan drove in the winning run in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, now ranked as one of the greatest World Series of all time. He was the first second baseman in the history of the National League to win the MVP back to back (1975,1976).
A 10 time All-Star, Morgan retired with 2,571 hits and 1,133 RBI’s. While his lifetime average was .271, he hit between .288 and .327 during his peak years with the Reds. Additionally, he drew many walks, resulting in an excellent .392 on-base percentage. He also hit 268 home runs to go with 449 doubles and 96 triples, excellent power for a middle infielder of his era, and was considered by some the finest base stealer of his generation (689 steals at greater than 80% success rate). Besides his prowess at the plate and on the bases, Morgan was an exceptional infielder, winning the Gold Glove Award in consecutive years from 1972 to 1976. After his career ended, he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1987, and his jersey number 8 was retired. He was honored by the Reds by throwing out the 1st pitch at the Reds first spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark (in Arizona) on March 5, 2010.
In 1980, Morgan returned to Houston to help the young Astros win the NL West. Morgan went to the San Francisco Giants for the next two seasons. His home run in the last game of the 1982 season eliminated the Dodgers from the division race. He won the 1982 Willie Mac Award for his spirit and leadership. He then went to the Phillies, where he rejoined ex-teammates Pete Rose and Tony Pérez. After losing to the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, Morgan finished his career with the Oakland Athletics.