50th anniversary: Houston signs Joe Morgan

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.

Day-versaries

6,000 days since Cal Ripken passes up Eddie Murray at the all-time Orioles home run lead when he hits No. 334.

7,000 days since Manny begins just being Manny, as Manny Ramirez makes his big league debut.

8,000 days since New York Times reporter Murray Chass breaks the news that MLB will give the Players Association $280,000,000 in compensation for collusion. The lords of baseball will raise this money via expansion. The expansion fees for the Marlins and Rockies will pay off collusion.

9,000 days since Atlanta signs free agent outfielder Lonnie Smith.

10,000 days since Rick “Big Daddy” Reuschel steals a base. The portly pitcher is exactly 36 years and one month old. (Actually, he’ll steal another one two years later, but that will come on the back end of a double steal.

Also, at some point today it will be 1,000,000,000 seconds since the Pirates sign free agent pitcher Luis Tiant.

Anniversaries

1819 Doc Adams, one of the founding fathers of baseball, is born.

1859 Bid McPhee, Hall of Fame second baseman, is born.

1894 Charlie Sweeney, former pitcher, is convicted of manslaughter charges in San Francisco.

1907 Larry French, star 1930s pitcher, is born. He joins the navy during WWII and decides to stay there until he’s in his 60s.

1914 Connie Mack begins his first great fire sale. Today, the first to go is pitcher Jack Coombs to the Dodgers. By Opening Day 1915, Mack will have sold away so many starters from his 1910-14 dynasty, that the A’s will finish in last place for each season remaining in the decade.

1916 Harry Frazee buys the Boston Red Sox. He’ll turn one of the best franchises of the early AL into a doormat.

1927 Vic Power, superb fielding first basemen, is born.

1934 The Phillies trade Dick Bartell to the Giants for four players and cash.

1942 Branch Rickey is named the president for the Brooklyn Dodgers, replacing Larry MacPhail, who is serving in the military. Rickey will get over $40,000/year plus bonuses.

1944 Branch Rickey, Walter O’Malley and Andrew J. Schmitz purchase 25 percent of the Dodgers from executors of the estate of Steve McKeever.

1944 Ed Brandt, who pitched in the NL as recently as 1938, dies at age 39. He had a career record of 121-146.

1946 In the Rule 5 draft, the A’s get Ferris Fain from San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League. The Braves land Danny Murtaugh from the St. Louis Cardinals farm system. The Indians draft Gus Zernial from the Southern Association’s Atlanta club.

1946 Surgeons amputate the right foot of Indians owner Bill Veeck.

1949 Gillette buys the rights to the World Series for $1.37 million.

1950 Luke Appling, “Old Aches and Pains,” officially retires as White Sox shortstop at age 43.

1951 Mickey Doolan, strong fielding Deadball Era shortstop, dies at age 71. When he retired in 1918, he ranked 43rd all-time in games played, with 1,728.

1960 Fernando Valenzuela is born.

1973 The A’s release Mike Andrews, who was the center of World Series controversy. He made two key errors in one game, costing Oakland the game. Team owner Charlie O. Finley responded by forcing Andrews to sign a fraudulent medical report claiming he was unable to play. The scheme backfired on Finley, and commissioner Bowie Kuhn reinstates Andrews, but now that the Series is over, Finley cuts Andrews from the team.

1974 Bullet Joe Bush, 200 game winner, dies at age 81.

1979 Coco Crisp is born.

1979 Edward Bennett Williams purchases the Orioles for $12.3 million.

1979 The Yankees trade 1976 ALCS hero Chris Chambliss along with Damaso Garcia and Paul Mirabella to the Blue Jays for Rick Cerone, Tom Underwood and Ted Wilborn. The Yankees intend for Cerone to replace the late Thurman Munson as catcher. Garcia becomes an All-Star with the Blue Jays.

1979 The Yankees and Mariners have a six-player trade that sends Jim Beattie, Juan Beniquez and Jerry Narron to Seattle and Ruppert Jones to the Yankees.

1982 The Boston Red Sox release first baseman Tony Perez.

1982 Baseball owners vote not to renew the contract of commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

1989 The Senior Professional Baseball Association begins play in Florida. It’ll complete one season and disintegrate during its sophomore campaign.

1993 Reds owner Marge Schott returns to running day-to-day operations for Cincinnati after completing her nine-month suspension.

1997 The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum opens its new home in Kansas City. It’s a triumph for Buck O’Neil, who worked to create it.

1999 The Cubs hire Don Baylor as their manager. He’ll do an abysmal job.

1999 The Indians hire Charlie Manuel as their manager. This is his first chance Manuel, who will turn 56 in January, has at running a big league club.

2000 Two teams hire new managers. The Dodgers name Jim Tracy. It’ll be Tracy’s first time as major league field general. The Phillies hire former shortstop (and ex-Padres manager) Larry Bowa.

2001 The Astros hire Jimy Williams as their new manager. It’s his third stint, having previously worked in Toronto and Boston as manager.

2001 In Game Five of the World Series, the Yankees win their second straight game with a walk-off extra-inning hit. The Yankees trailed Arizona 2-0 entering the bottom of the ninth but Scott Brosius hit a home run off Byung-Hyun Kim to tie it. Three innings later, a young Alfonso Soriano singled in the winning run for a stunning 3-2 Yankees win. The day before Kim had surrendered a ninth inning game-tying homer to Tino Martinez and an 10th inning game-ending homer to Derek Jeter. It was not a fun 24 hours for that pitcher.

2004 Arizona hires new manager Wally Backman. They sign him to a two-year contract but he lasts less than two weeks; he’ll soon be arrested on DUI, harassment and spousal abuse charges.

2007 The Dodgers hire Joe Torre as their manager. It’s Torre’s fifth and final hiring as big league skipper.

2008 The Phillies announce that Ruben Amaro Jr. will replace Pat Gillick as their GM next year.

2009 The Yankees take Game Four of the World Series from the Phillies, 7-4, thanks to three runs in the top of the ninth inning.

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