December 11, 2013
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Thursday, November 01, 2012
50 years ago today, one of the best players in baseball history went pro. On Nov. 1, 1962, the Houston Astros (or Colt .45s, as they were known back then) signed a 19-year-old kid named Joe Morgan.
They didn’t have to go too far to find Morgan, as he was a Texan himself. Then again, Texas is a big place and Morgan’s hometown of Bonham is over 300 miles from Houston. It’s about as close to Houston as St. Louis is to Nashville.
Geography aside, Houston picked him up and that out rather well. Within a year, Morgan made his debut in the big leagues. At age 21, he became Houston’s everyday second baseman in 1965.
In fact, as a rookie Morgan showed what he was capable of, leading the league in walks, stealing 20 bases, and scoring 100 runs. Morgan hit .271 with 14 homers, which may not sound tremendous these days, but at the time was amazing. The NL as a whole hit .249 that year, and the Astros played in the Astrodome, a then-new modern marvel as well as world class pitcher’s haven. It was a tremendous season for anyone, let alone someone so young.
Morgan remained a strong player for many years, but never quite lived up to the promise of that 1965 season. Eventually, Houston made one of the worst moves in franchise history and traded him to the Reds. The change of scenery did wonders for Morgan. Not only did he get to leave the Astrodome behind, but more importantly he got to leave the team behind. Morgan never liked manager Harry "the Hat" Walker, who considered Morgan a troublemaker. For his part, Morgan thought part of Walker’s problems with him was racial.
So while the Astros made a great signing 50 years ago today, it would be the Reds that really reaped the most from it. Morgan spent eight years with the Reds, making the All-Star squad every year, winning a pair of MVPs, and appearing in three World Series—two of which the Reds won.
He came back to the Astros in 1980, but by then he was 36 years old and no longer in his prime. Morgan was still good, but the best years were in the rearview mirror. Morgan’s second stint in Houston kicked off the nomadic portion of his career, as he played with four teams in five years before retiring after 1984.
He earned his place in Cooperstown, and Morgan’s first step toward the Hall of Fame occurred when the Astros signed him, exactly 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate either their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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