MCNS Articles
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
  Boston Globe
October 6, 1988

Author: Leigh Montville, Globe Staff

He was finished with the Bud Light. He was finished with the shower. The baseball uniform with the red No. 35 on the back had been put in a pile for cleaning, and Joe Morgan was dressed in his good pants and dress shirt and was tying his tie.

He also was singing.

I've got a love-ly bunch of coconuts," Joe Morgan sang.

"What's that?" a television cameraman asked.

"Song," Joe Morgan said. "Great song . . . aw, you're not old enough to know it. 'I've got a love-ly bunch of coconuts . . . ' "

One hour had passed.

Two hours.

There was little meat still to be picked from the bare bones of the afternoon's work. What could you say? The Red Sox were in an immediate hole, 2-1 losers to the Oakland A's in the first game of this best-of-seven American League playoff series yesterday at Fenway Park. You could cut your throat or you could whistle.

The 57-year-old Red Sox manager was a whistler.

"How do you think your team is going to be tomorrow?" a reporter asked.

"Dynamite," Joe Morgan said. "What else do you think I'm going to say?"

All those years and all those games in all those places teach a man to try to turn the page in the scorebook about 15 seconds after the final out is recorded. The out in this case was Wade Boggs' strikeout against Dennis Eckersley, the crowd standing in the autumn cold, runners on first and second, game on the line. Strikeout. The groan started in Fenway and was broadcast and doubled through every tavern and rest home and fifth-grade classroom in New England. Never matter. Record the giant K , a line across the bottom to indicate that the strikeout was accomplished with a swing and miss. Turn the page. You said you thought your team would win the first two games at Fenway and be in great shape going into Oakland," a reporter said. "You thoug ht winning these two games here would be very important."

"I thought it was at the beginning," Joe Morgan said. "But I changed my mind now."

Turn the page.

There are games that can send a manager -- any manager -- into a corner with a fistful of "ifs" and "buts," decisions that can be tossed onto the floor and reassembled as if they were so many pieces of Legos, a different and better outcome built each time. This simply was not one of them.

What could Joe Morgan have done differently?

Could he have taken out pitcher Bruce Hurst somewhere? When? Why? The Red Sox lefthander threw two pitches, three pitches that Oakland batters really hit. The home run ball to Jose Canseco. Not even a bad pitch. Forkball. A couple of pitches in the eighth to Carney Lansford and Dave Henderson. Double and single, winning run, just like that. Two pitches in a row. What else? Hurst pitched fine outside of the times Oakland scored. Great.

What else?

"Did you think about a hit-and-run after Boggs singled to lead off the game against Dave Stewart?" a reporter asked.

"No," Joe Morgan said. "Stewart doesn't throw what I'd call 'good strikes.' It's hard to hit-and-run off a pitcher who doesn't throw good strikes."

What else?

"Would you have had that extra run if Walter Weiss hadn't stopped Rich Gedman's single in the second?" a reporter asked. "That loaded the bases instead of giving you a run."

"No, we wouldn't have scored," Joe Morgan said. "I saw the left fielder on that play. He would have fielded the ball in time to hold everybody. He was coming."

There were no untied shoelaces here. There were no great doubts and questions. This was a game that somehow had traveled through nine innings on auto-pilot. What else? Nothing else. The hitters would hit or the pitchers would pitch and the balls would fall where they would fall. The horizontal and vertical control knobs were being turned somewhere else for this one.

"You could tell from the way the wind was blowing in batting practice that this wasn't going to be a hitter's game," Joe Morgan said. "The ball that Mark McGwire hit would have gone out on a normal day. The ball that Weiss hit, too. Canseco's home run . . . even that wasn't hit the way he thought it was hit. He stopped. He thought the ball was out, easy. What was it? I think it was over the fence by about 18 inches. It wouldn't even have gone out if the wind were blowing the way it was during batting practice. The wind had died down when he hit that."

The final at-bat, Boggs against Eckersley, was the final indication of how little control a manager had. What could he do there? He had his best hitter at the plate with a runner on second, a chance to win the game. What more could a manager want? What better situation could he hope to create? The moment happened on its own, the events out of anyone's hands.

"Eckersley pitches fast," Joe Morgan said. "I always liked that, but I know a lot of guys who don't."

One strike . . .

Two . . .

A foul . . .

"Did you have any vibrations?" a reporter asked. "Did you make one of your predictions in the dugout?"

"None," Joe Morgan said. "What should I have picked? Home run? Maybe just a single to right."

Strike three.

The manager sang his coconut song and tied his tie. He brushed his hair before one more television interview began with one more station.

"You'd said that winning the first two games would be a key," the interviewer began.

"I've changed my mind about that," Joe Morgan said. "We'll be fine. We'll come at 'em with the hammers of hell tomorrow."

The hammers of hell. Now in the on-deck circle . . .  
  Boston Globe
October 3, 1988

Author: Bob Ryan, Globe Staff

CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox' victory haul of 89 is the smallest number to win the American League East in the 20 years of divisional play.

"It boils down to one thing, I guess," said Joe Morgan. "There was one game we had to win -- Thursday -- and we won it. The story of the whole race is that it was up for grabs and we grabbed it. Winning 19 out of 20 didn't hurt, did it?"

The basic Morgan analysis of the ALCS:

"If we have any advantage, it's having those first two games in Boston. If we do what we're capable of doing, we'll be tough to beat. I think we have a better overall hitting team, but they have more power. And they have more speed. They're a pretty solid defensive team.

"Pitching-wise, I believe our starters are every bit as good as theirs, if not better. Smith vs. Eckersley in the pen, take your pick. The battle will be in the middle relief.

"People are making a great deal out of our not being able to win a game in Oakland this year, but I'll repeat what I said out there on our last trip. I said 'when' -- that's 'when,' not 'if' -- we return, the odds will be in our favor because we're better than 1 out of 14."

Morgan said he is hoping for "a ton of rain" today. That way, he can go mushroom picking in Walpole. "You've got to do it right after a heavy rain, no other time," Morgan reports. Morgan on determining whether a mushroom is poisonous: "It can be a tough call. It's like when you're waiting for that slider and the heater comes right for the coconut. That's a tough call."  
  Boston Globe
July 22, 1988

Author: Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Staff

He has plowed your streets, sorted your mail, taught your children and delivered your oil.

Now Joe Morgan manages your baseball team.

Walpole's Joe Morgan is manager of the Boston Red Sox. The Sox haven't promoted a member of their organization since Darrell Johnson took over in 1974, but you'd have to go back a lot further to find a guy with a true Boston accent working the corner office at Fenway Park.

Morgan is local. He understands Don Kent, the Beanpot, the Cocoanut Grove, the Knothole Gang, VFW Parkway, chocolate frappes, candlepin bowling, Don Buddin and the Jimmy Fund.

He has skated the ice at Boston Arena and sanded the ice near the Brighton tolls. He has pounded nails and laid bricks in and around your homes. He has knocked on the door and taken the census. Now he stands up to Jim Rice and tells the erstwhile slugger to take a seat when the Sox face a bunt situation.

Walpole native Peter Turco loved that one. "I know Joe and I knew his father," says the 77-year-old chairman of the town assessors. "Joe was always pretty low-key -- until Wednesday night. I got a boot out of that, ha, ha."

Everybody in Walpole is getting a boot out of this. So are the guys over at the Massachusetts Turnpike maintenance shop in Weston.

Morgan drove a snowplow for 10 offseasons. He worked Christmas, New Year's and the 24-hour shifts if necessary. He worked the infamous Blizzard of '78. The fellas in Weston still call that "The Big One," just like veterans talking about World War II.

"Joe got chased down the road by somebody with a shovel because he'd just plowed in the guy's driveway," says Turnpike maintenance supervisor Dick Henderson. "But if Joe has a problem with someone, it's because the other person wasn't communicating. Joe is gonna do what's right. He's a New Englander and can be pretty stubborn, but he's fair, too."

An angry Rice is no more menacing than a guy with a shovel who's seen four hours of work undone. Morgan won't be bullied by either. He's waited too long and worked too hard to get to this point, and he's not going to change now.

"You can't meet a more honest guy," recalls Richie Hebner, who played for Morgan at Raleigh in 1967. "You've got to like to play for the guy. There's no bull. He won't con anybody. He's a straight shooter, and I don't think Joe will ever change. Joe's Joe. I don't think he's ever put the dog on for anybody."

Morgan was born in Walpole in 1930. His parents were from County Claire, Ireland, and his father found work as a boiler room engineer for the Kendall Co. Joe was the second of five children born to William and Mary Morgan, and he grew up on School Street, about three-quarters of a mile from the house he now lives in.

His father took the boys to Fenway for a lot of weekday doubleheaders. "We used to see the Philadelphia A's a lot," recalls Morgan. "My father must have liked Connie Mack."

Kids in the 1940s played hours of baseball and hockey, long before the days of Little League uniforms and parents driving to rinks at 6 a.m. Young Joe was a center iceman in the winter and a shortstop in the summer.

"I bet we played three times as much baseball as these kids play today," says Morgan.

He cut lawns for glove money, and his first skates were hand-me-down size 10s. He had to stuff socks into the ends to make toes meet.

Morgan was a very skilled hockey player.

"He'd be a first-round draft pick if he came out today," says former coach and longtime friend Bernie Burke, a full-time Newton pharmacist and part-time goalie coach at Boston College.

Morgan's high school hockey coach, Bob Graney, was a Boston College man and took him to BC during his senior year. Snooks Kelley was offering a hockey scholarship, and when Graney told him that the kid could play baseball, too, the BC folks offered to throw in Morgan's books for free.

He commuted to BC for four years. He often used his thumb to get rides home. He'd start at a traffic light on the BC campus, hitch one ride to VFW Parkway, then get to Walpole via Route 1 or 1-A. Things improved when his father bought a pickup truck.

Boston College hockey coach Len Ceglarski was Morgan's teammate during those years, and is a lifelong friend -- the only kind Morgan seems to attract.

Morgan was the shortstop and center while Ceglarski played second base and wing. The hockey Eagles went 17-3 in 1951-52, and Morgan led the team with 21 assists and 35 points.

"He was the type of player you wanted on your team," says Burke. "He was a great playmaker. You just didn't fool with him. He'll be tough on these guys. He won't butter up guys or play favorites."

"I think I was really better at hockey," Morgan says. "Hockey was easier for me. In hockey, it seems like you can always find something to do. In baseball, you can stand around all day and not get a ball hit to you."

It was unrealistic to think about the National Hockey League in those days. There were only six teams, and the players were Canadian. Meanwhile, the Boston Braves were looking for a shortstop, and scout Jeff Jones recommended Morgan. After his junior year at BC, Morgan signed with the Braves and pocketed a bonus of $22,500. The money went kind of fast," he recalls. "I bought my folks a bunch of stuff for around the house, and a car."

He finished his studies the following winter and got a history and government degree with the class of '53.

Morgan's minor league career was a Rand McNally marathon: "Bull Durham" followed by 14 interminable summer sequels.

He hit .228 for Hartford in the Eastern League in '52, then .246 for Evansville in the Three-I League in '53. He spent the next two seasons honing his skills and laying telephone lines at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. He returned to hit .301 for Jacksonville in the Sally League in 1956. He moved up to Double-A in '57 and hit .316 with 117 walks. He played in Triple-A in '58 and went to the Braves' major league spring camp in Bradenton, Fla., in 1959.

He didn't stick.

"I was a lousy pinch hitter," says Morgan.

The Braves sold him to Kansas City in '59, and Kansas City sold him to the Phillies in 1960.

He was with the Phillies in 1960 when manager Gene Mauch called him into his office.

"I said, 'Well, Gene, is it back to Louisville or Buffalo?' And he said 'No, we've sold you to Cleveland.' I was bouncing all over hell."

Cleveland traded him to St. Louis in 1961, and the Cardinals told Morgan to report to Charleston, W.Va., then Charleston, S.C.

Joe and Dorothy Morgan, who were married in '56 and had the first of their four children in '58, got on the New Jersey Turnpike and headed south. Unsure which state they were headed for, Morgan stopped at a pay phone and called the Cardinals to asked whether it was Charleston, W.Va., or Charleston, S.C.

It was South Carolina, and Morgan toiled in the Cardinals' system for three more years before he got a call in '64. He played three games for the Cards, then they tried to get him on their World Series roster because Julian Javier had injured ribs and couldn't play. The Yankees, St. Louis' opponent, said no, and Morgan had come up short again.

He never saw another day in the majors as a player. From the time he signed in 1952 until he retired in 1967, Morgan played 88 major league games, hitting .193 with 2 homers and 10 RBIs. He went to the plate 187 times. He played second base, third and left field in the bigs. His career highlight was a game in Cleveland when he homered and doubled off Chuck Estrada. He wasn't in the lineup the next day. He never got a break," says Burke. "I think his legs were kind of bad because of all the hockey."

Morgan started managing in the Pirates system in 1966. Pittsburgh manager Harry Walker helped get him the job. He was a player-manager that first year in Raleigh, and a year later, he had a line-drive hitter from Norwood named Richie Hebner.

Morgan the manager went from Raleigh to York to Columbus, then back to Charleston (still with us?) before becoming a coach with the Pirates in 1972. He went back to Charleston for one last year before calling Dick O'Connell about the Red Sox' Triple-A job at Pawtucket in 1974. He got the job, and folks in Pawtucket are forever grateful.

"Joe's a legacy in Pawtucket," says Mike Tamburro, president of the PawSox. "He was the perfect man to have with us. He's a class act and he's an institution down here."

Morgan was International League manager of the year in 1977, and the players he sent up to Boston (Rice, Fred Lynn, Rick Burleson, Butch Hobson) were the foundation of the Red Sox' powerful teams from 1975-80. In the late '70s and early '80s, he had another crop of players that included Marty Barrett, Wade Boggs, Rich Gedman and Bruce Hurst.

Morgan is still friendly with Tamburro and Pawtucket owner Ben Mondor. Two winters ago, Mondor took Morgan to lunch and gave him a check. "He told me it was something he wished he could have done while I was there," recalls Morgan. "I don't get emotional too often, but I did that day."

"We'll always be beholdin' to Joe," says Mondor. "He's a helpful, astute, cooperative man. He's a very astute analyzer of the human being, and that's something you can't learn."

There were still plenty of disappointments. Morgan wanted the Sox job when Don Zimmer was gassed in 1980, but Ralph Houk got the nod. Morgan was labeled a "developer" of big league talent. The same thing had happened to him in the Pirates system in 1974. He was not major league managerial timber, the label said. It was tough to shake, and Morgan wasn't getting any younger.

He stayed in baseball, despite the uncertainty, the disappointment and the low pay.

"It's a love," he says. "You can't get away from it."

The Red Sox front office pulled him out of Pawtucket after 1982 and made him a scout for two years. In 1985, he became a coach under new manager John McNamara. Morgan didn't have much input under Mac, but neither did he register any complaints when Mac pulled him off first base and sent him to the bullpen in 1986.

The resignation of Rene Lachemann put Morgan back by the baselines, at third, in 1987. He was planning on coaching third eight days ago when he was named interim Red Sox manager.

His rituals and manners haven't changed. Morgan still gets to the park early and hits fungoes to Boggs at around 4:25 p.m.

He says, "No matter what type of manager you are, good or bad, you still depend on the ballclub for your existence."

Morgan's mail has been as positive as his team's record.

"The cranks and lineup guys haven't gotten me yet," he says. "You've got to lose one first before that happens."

"I was home the other night, and my son said, 'Dad, there's only 26 of these jobs in the world, and you got one of them.' That seemed pretty good."

That's Joe Morgan talking.

Three of his children live at home. Cathy is married and has moved out, but Joe, Billy and Barbara Jean are still at the family home in Walpole. Joe is working, while Billy and Barbara Jean are students. All are in their 20s.

"He had four kids to bring up, and I don't think baseball ever made him a ton of dough," says Turco.

Morgan would come home in the offseason and work. It's the way baseball is for those who aren't in the $2.4 million-per-year range. He worked in carpentry, brick-laying and oil delivery. He worked for a collection agency and took the census. He did some substitute teaching. He was a truck dispatcher. He worked for Polaroid and Raytheon. Then there were the Turnpike years, which didn't end until he got his World Series share in 1986.

"He's really respected around here," says the Pike's Henderson. 'He doesn't promote himself, and I think that's one of the things that held him back."

"Joe would be on the job any time we called," says Tony Petti, a maintenance foreman. "He was not afraid to do anything. He loved to cut brush. He was like another Paul Bunyan. And he always keeps in touch with the boys."

Morgan remembers those fringe benefits when trucks would turn over.

"It seemed like you were always going home with a case of 9-Lives cat food or something else you didn't need," he says with a chuckle. "Mushrooms once, and a truck of mayonnaise another time. I remember when a truck of dimes fell over and this one kid was wearing those hip boots and stuffing dimes into 'em. The supervisor called him over, and he couldn't lift his legs."

The manager's friends know where to find him: If you need to see Joe Morgan, check out the Blessed Sacrament parish when the Sox are home, the bowling alley on Mondays during the offseason and the Beanpot hockey tournament any year and every year.

"He still bowls candlepins, of course in a league on Monday nights," says Hebner. "I go there a lot and keep score. Joe's OK. His average is up there over 100."

"These days, I mostly see him at Mass," says Turco.

Last December, Morgan came by Turco's house in a pickup truck so they could attend the funeral of Bob Graney. It was snowy, and Joe's pickup was the only way they were going to make it.

Bernie Burke remembers when Joe Morgan couldn't make it to the funeral of Butch Songin, another Walpole great who was the first quarterback of the Boston Patriots.

"Joe was out of town, but he sent a check for all the vestments for the Mass," says Burke. "That's how Joe remembers his friends.  
  Boston Globe
December 18, 1988

Author: Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Staff

This is the winter of plenty for Red Sox manager Joe Morgan. He's not sorting mail, delivering oil, pounding nails, or driving a 10-wheel plow on the Massachusetts Turnpike. After 31 years of minor-league ball and five years as a big-league scout and coach, Morgan is the manager of his hometown team, and this winter is unlike any other.

"Everything's changed," says Morgan, who is 58 and a native of Walpole. "I was riding downtown today, and I said to myself, 'Gee, if I have to get a couple of more cords of wood for next year, maybe I can buy 'em, and I won't have to slosh around and cut 'em myself."

There are boxes of fan mail in a corner of his cozy Walpole kitchen. The phone rings constantly, and sometimes Dottie Morgan has to turn on that newfangled answering machine. Tuition costs and fuel bills aren't top priority anymore.

Live it up, Joe, you've made it. You're the beloved manager of the Boston Red Sox. Put another log on the fire.

Morgan is in great demand. In winters past he has worked as a census taker, a substitute teacher, an oil delivery man, a carpenter, a mail sorter, and a snowplow driver for the Pike (he worked 24-hour shifts during the "big one" of '78). He no longer needs the extra dough (his 1989 salary will be $225,000), and this is the first time in his 58 years that he's ever felt important outside of the Morgan family room. He went to the World Series, lit the Christmas lights at the Floating Hospital, and flew to Ireland to watch Boston College beat Army on his 58th birthday last month.

He has performed what he calls "the grand marshal" bit a couple of times, and close to 1,200 Walpole friends and neighbors honored him with a special "This Is Your Life" tribute in November, when the Walpole Central Little League field was named after him. Few folks asked for his autograph the night of his tribute; it was an evening for the townies, and you do not need a man's autograph when you're bound to see him at the doughnut shop a day later.

Have another Bavarian cream, Joe. This is the winter of content.

"The way I look at it, it's definitely a Cinderella deal," he says. "Because I figured, at my age there was no way I was gonna be named manager, and I probably wouldn't have been at the beginning of the year or in the winter. It's definitely a Hollywood production the way it all transpired."

Managing the Boston Red Sox might be the most visible and controversial position in this region. Politicians, doctors, lawyers, and university presidents are targets for criticism but find shelter in the complexity of their tasks. Managing a baseball team is different, because fans think they understand what the skipper is doing, and it looks easy. Everybody thinks he or she can do the job, especially in baseball-crazed Boston. Residents of nursing homes know the Sox ought to be bunting mor e, and eighth-grade computer scientists have legitimate lineup suggestions.

No matter what the season, minor Sox shuffles make headlines, and major Sox scuffles are fodder for film at 11. The Red Sox never win the World Series, and the manager is usually a dart-board ornament for the long-suffering legions. John McNamara was accused of falling asleep in the dugout, Ralph Houk had rose-colored glasses, Don Zimmer was a gerbil, Darrell Johnson lifted Jim Willoughby for a pinch hitter, and Joe McCarthy selected Denny Galehouse to pitch a one-game playoff against the Indians.ouse. Morgan won 19 of his first 20 and is still riding the wave of victory. In 1988, Joe Morgan was the architect of the true Massachusetts Miracle.

Morgan is enjoying one of the longest honeymoons in the hard-edged history of the Red Sox and their fans. He's been managing the Sox since July 14 and, even though the Townies were swept by Oakland in the playoffs, Tollway Joe is still loved by the fandom. He is the most popular Boston manager since Dick Williams turned a ninth-place team into a World Series entry during his first season, in 1967.

Morgan was popular from the start because he is local. Grover's Corners, USA, plays well in the big city. This could be called the Doug Flutie Syndrome. Morgan is the first native son to guide the Red Sox since Shano Collins (born in Charlestown in 1885, died in Newton in 1955) compiled a 73-136 record in 1931 and '32. A succession of men from California, Kansas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, and other remote regions have sat in the corner office chair in Fenway's home-team clubhouse, but none of these tobacco spitters had a Boston accent or understood the unique relationship between this town and its team.

McNamara couldn't comprehend the Bucky Dent fallout until a ground ball trickled through Bill Buckner's legs. Morgan understands. Morgan went to Walpole High School and Boston College. He's an accomplished candlepin bowler (try explaining candlepins to anyone from outside New England), and he understands Filene's Basement, Hoodsie's, Johnny Turco, Johnny McKenzie and Johnny Most. He knows that the Red Sox are always in season.

"Everything hinges on the Red Sox," says Morgan. "The interest is so great, and I don't know where it really started, to be honest with you. It's hard to say, isn't it? It just happens that this area is a big baseball-minded area."

Being local isn't enough. Morgan is also popular because of what happened and the way it happened late last summer. The Red Sox were a mess in early July. A team that was picked by at least five national publications to win the American League East stumbled through the spring and early summer and staggered into the All-Star break with a 43-42 record, nine games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers.

The clubhouse was divided between young players who resented McNamara and older players who liked the reverent treatment they got from the veteran manager. A bus fight in Cleveland brought the problems out in the open, and the $6 million palimony suit filed against Wade Boggs caused internal unrest. Meanwhile, the team was playing inconsistently and lethargically as McNamara struggled to hang on in the face of media criticism and fan outrage.

On July 14, Bastille Day, Sox majority owner Jean Yawkey outvoted McNamara's pal, minority owner Haywood Sullivan, 2-1, and ordered a managerial change. Joe Morgan's life changed. "We all got to the park, and it was business as usual," remembers Morgan. "Then, all of a sudden, I saw Haywood coming in Mac's office, and then I looked up, and at the same time General Manager Lou Gorman came in the other way and told me they were gonna make some changes. He sat down beside me and said he was gonna make a change and that I'd be taking over for the time being. After that, I didn't see Mac. He went out the other way."

The Red Sox were rained out that night but played two games the next evening and won both. It was the beginning of a 12-game winning streak and a stretch in which the Sox won 19 of 20. In the next three weeks, the team went from nine games out to a first-place tie. No manager in baseball history had ever won 19 of his first 20 games.

Morgan has had time to absorb those heady days of July and August. "That will never happen again," he concludes. "You won't get a manager to come in and have that happen. It won't be that good of a team, and they'll win a little while and then go back to the old form. Nineteen out of 20, are you kidding me? There's no way it could happen, under the circumstance. You wouldn't be in a position to do that again, right?"

The remarkable streak did more for Morgan's career than the combined efforts of his previous 36 years in the bushes and the bigs. Before the McNamara firing, Morgan appeared destined for another few years of coaching, then retirement. Other organizations, routinely, do not ask for permission to interview 57-year-old third-base coaches with no major-league managerial experience. The Sox thought so much of Morgan last spring that they put his press-guide biography next to the photograph of so mebody else -- coach Rac Slider. Morgan was the Nowhere Man of the Sox clubhouse; he was rarely consulted, rarely involved, and quoted only when he made a mistake sending a runner home from third. He had a million minor-league stories to tell, but there were no listeners.

When Morgan was named manager, it was done with little enthusiasm. The Sox told Morgan he was "interim" skipper while a search for a permanent man took place. It was akin to saying, "Will you be my prom date until I can find somebody better looking?" Morgan wasn't insulted. He seized the opportunity. "I told Lou, 'Don't worry, you've got the right guy,' and let it go at that," he recalls. "But I knew I had to prove myself. We were playing 11 home games. If we went 6-5, I probably would have been out of there. I figured we had to win at least eight to get me to stick around for a while."

When the Sox winning streak reached six games, the increasingly embarrassing managerial search was junked, and Morgan was named skipper for the rest of the year. Before the surge ended, Morgan had a contract through 1989. Suddenly, writers discovered his file cabinet of tall tales from the bush leagues.

"I've told 'em a thousand times," he says. "Now there's interested ears. I tell 'em because I get a kick out of 'em, and I think it's good copy." The stories are laced with old-timey baseball expressions you find in young- reader baseball novels by the likes of John R. Tunis. Morgan talks of "hitting one over the bricks," "spinning a beauty," and "smacking that pea around the yard."

Morganspeak also includes several throwaway expressions that have no meaning whatsoever. Morgan will often end a conversation with, "See you in St. Paul." He does it at the conclusion of many of his radio and television interviews. He also says, "Six, two, and even," about 10 times a day. This is believed to be a betting expression that was popular in the '30s and '40s, and movie buffs claim Humphrey Bogart said it in at least two of his films. Morgan just says it. He likes the way it sounds. "Six, two, and even. See you in St. Paul."

"He's always just made things like that up, and it drives me crazy," says Dot Morgan. "We'll be sitting at the breakfast table, and he'll say something that makes no sense at all."

One could get the impression that Morgan is leading the charmed life of Peter Sellers' Chance the gardener in Being There, but there is substance to go with the manager's style, stories, and Boston accent. On the night of July 20, Morgan made a move that symbolized a new era in Red Sox management-player relations and forever endeared him to the Fenway fans: In a hit-and-run/bunt situation, Morgan sent Spike Owen up to bat for struggling slugger Jim Rice.

An outraged Rice pulled Morgan into the dugout runway and tried to start a fight. Morgan, a former hockey player, held his ground, and the two had to be separated by other players. Rice sulked off to the clubhouse while Morgan emerged from the fray saying, "I'm the manager of this nine." The Sox won the game in extra innings on a Todd Benzinger homer, and the next day Rice was suspended for three games. Morgan had earned new respect among his players and Boston fans.

"It didn't bother me," says Morgan. "I did what I had to do, and it was all over in a few days. That was something I don't think any manager would let them get away with."

The move got everyone's attention. Since the beginning of the century, the Red Sox have catered to superstars. Babe Ruth got special treatment when he played for the Red Sox, and owner Thomas Yawkey showered Ted Williams and then Carl Yastrzemski with personal attention. The Sox have a reputation for individualism and selfishness, and the caste system thrived under McNamara. Though it was clear Rice's skills had diminished, McNamara was reluctant to take him out of left field or the cleanup spot and did so only after numerous sessions in which he would "sit down and talk with Jimmy."

Morgan gave the erstwhile slugger no special treatment. He lifted the $2.4 million man when the situation called for it, then stood up to the star when Rice tried to bully him. Sox fans were overjoyed to learn of these new corporate policies on Yawkey Way. The season ended on a similar note. With the Red Sox trailing, 4-1, in the final inning of the final playoff game, Morgan pinch-hit for both Rice and Dwight Evans. Evans indicated he was deeply hurt by the move.

Morgan says, "I know a lot of managers don't have any feelings for players. But I do, and when you make those moves, you definitely have feelings, and you know the repercussions. Like that Evans and Rice thing at the end. If Oakland doesn't get those insurance runs, I'm going to let Rice and Evans hit for long balls and so forth, but the way things were going with Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley, we were five for 30-something against him, and I said, 'Hey, the only chance we got is to throw a ll these lefties up there and see if we can get something going.' But I have feeling for players. It's not like I just throw 'em out there. I think you get more out of managing if you show feelings for players, even though you have to go against the grai n once in a while.

"I try to treat 'em all pretty much the same, although it's not easy with 24 guys. I think they realize that I try to do it that way. I told them when I took over that the only difference between any of us is the paycheck. That's something you earn. I believe that. I know some people here have been around for a long time, but they've been paid well to be around for a long time. And a kid coming up from Pawtucket, I'd just as soon give him as much attention as anyone else."

And if a player doesn't like this lack of deference to veterans? "I guess that's his problem, as long as it doesn't affect the team. You don't make a ton of friends managing."

Last September, when the Red Sox were playing in Baltimore, a Boston sportswriter was interviewed by a local radio station and was given a $50 gift certificate to a clothing store. The writer was given a second certificate with Joe Morgan's name on it: The station had neglected to give it to Morgan the night before. The writer drove to the Baltimore clothing store the next day with both certificates. Calling Morgan from the store, he asked the Sox manager if he'd like him to pick out $50 worth of free merchandise.

"Can I get you a sweater or something? What's your size?" the writer asked.

"The last thing I need is another sweater," said Morgan, speaking from his hotel room in Baltimore. "What I could really use is some underwear. Boxer shorts, size 36 waist. And large T-shirts with the V-neck."

The writer got a $50 pair of sneakers for himself, quickly picked out $50 worth of underwear for Morgan, and drove back to the hotel. Morgan was packing his suitcase when the writer knocked on his door and dropped off a bag filled with $50 worth of free boxers and T-shirts. Accepting the goods, Morgan looked like he had just won the lottery.

Imagine. Free underwear. You gotta love this job.

There is nothing pretentious or intimidating about Joe Morgan. He is aptly named. He is a fitting representative for all the Joes and all the Morgans of the world. He is your uncle, your milkman, your next-door neighbor. You do not bother to get Joe Morgan's autograph, just as you don't bother to get Ray Flynn's. Wait 'em out at Dunkin' Donuts. They're always around. And just because a man can afford to buy cordwood doesn't mean he's lost all innocence.

"He's a straight shooter, and I don't think Joe will ever change," says Sox new hitting coach Richie Hebner, a Walpole native and longtime Morgan friend. "Joe's Joe. I don't think he's ever put the dog on for anybody."

The national baseball media were surprised and thrilled to discover Morgan when the Red Sox made it to the play-offs last fall. They asked him to say a little something about Walpole, and he started with, "If you don't live there, you're just camping out."

Morgan was born in Walpole in 1930 and grew up in a house on School Street, three-quarters of a mile from the house he has lived in for the past 30 years. His parents were both from County Clare, Ireland, and his father, William, found work as a boiler room engineer at the Kendall Co. The second of five children, Joe grew up playing baseball and hockey. His father liked to watch the Philadelphia Athletics, managed by Connie Mack.

"There were double-headers in those days, during the week, and we always got two for the price of one," recalls Morgan. "From Walpole to Fenway Park was 54 cents, one way on the bus. Round trip, a buck-four. We could handle that all right."

He starred in baseball and hockey at Walpole High and won a scholarship to Boston College, where he was a shortstop and center-iceman. The Boston Braves signed him in 1952, and he bought a car and some items for his parents' house with his $22,500 bonus money.

Casual baseball fans don't realize the gamble a young man takes when he enters professional baseball. Attrition is high, and only a small percent of those who sign professionally ever see a day in the big leagues. It's popular to poke fun at big-league utility infielders making $300,000, but everyone wearing a major-league uniform represents approximately 20 players who never got out of the minors.

Bull Durham is no joke. Minor-league life is rugged. A minor leaguer faces low pay, 10-hour bus rides, selfish teammates (everyone is playing to get himself promoted), and constant uncertainty. Minor leaguers spend their time in remote, one-horse towns and move all the time. There's pressure to find work in the off-season, along with a sinking feeling that you are throwing away your youth. It is a horrible life for a young family. Joe Morgan married Dottie Glebus in 1956, and they had the first of their four children two years later. Dottie spent a lot of hours by herself, sometimes hauling several kids and a trailer to a new home in some godforsaken minor-league outpost.

"Unless you're a baseball wife, you don't know what it's like," Joe Morgan says. "Pulling trailers, lugging four kids around the country. It wasn't easy. Dorothy earned her keep, believe me."

They endured, year after year. Joe played at Hartford, Evansville, Jacksonville, Charleston, Raleigh, Louisville, Buffalo -- name it. He didn't ) get to a major-league spring training site until 1959. He had short stints with the Milwaukee Braves, Kansas City A's, Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, and St. Louis Cardinals but kept getting demoted, traded, or released. His reward for 15 minor-league seasons was 187 at-bats in the majors. Morgan hit a paltry .193 and admits, "I was a lousy pinch hitter."

He started managing in the Pittsburgh Pirates system in 1966 and joined the Red Sox organization in 1974, when Dick O'Connell hired him to manage the Pawtucket Red Sox. Morgan managed the PawSox from 1974 to 1982 and watched Rice, Fred Lynn, Rick Burleson, Butch Hobson, Wade Boggs, Rich Gedman, Bruce Hurst, and Marty Barrett graduate to the majors. Public relations and loyalty mean a lot at the minor-league level, and Morgan remains a living legend around McCoy Stadium. The Sox made him a scout i n 1983 and brought him in as a first-base coach two years later. McNamara moved him to the bullpen in 1986, but Morgan came back to coach third when Rene Lachemann was hooted out of town after the '86 season.

Morgan didn't have much input under McNamara, but he remains gracious toward his still-out-of-work predecessor.

"I've been in his boat," says Morgan. "Not in the big leagues, but I've been bounced a few times. The worst part of getting fired is, all of a sudden you're out in the cold. It's like you're out in the desert, and you're the only one there. You don't know who your friends are. I remember going to the World Series a few times that I needed a job, and all of a sudden guys that used to be around laughing and joking with you, they're not there anymore. It's a lousy feeling. I got along good with Ma c and did the best I could for him. I called him one night after everything happened, and he called me when we won the division. That was about it."

Morgan made one major change when he succeeded McNamara: He inserted Jody Reed as his everyday shortstop. Reed caught fire, hit .314 in the second half, and finished third in the voting for American League Rookie of the year.

Other than the Reed move, Morgan made few changes. He gave Todd Benzinger the first-base job and put Dwight Evans back in right field. He used lefty reliever Tom Bolton and spare outfielder Kevin Romine. Romine immediately won a game with a late-inning homer, and Marty Barrett said, "I think that's when it started to turn around for us."

None of the above, however, explains a .500 team playing .950 baseball for three weeks. No one can know why an underachieving baseball team suddenly catches fire for a new boss, but in this case there's a suspicion that part of Morgan's Magic was that he was the man who followed the unpopular McNamara. America was a better country in the early days of the Gerald Ford administration simply because Ford was not Richard Nixon. Morgan perhaps got off to a great start because he was not McNamara.

Morgan himself felt he got too much credit for the Sox turnaround.

"It was getting embarrassing," he says. "At times I was saying to myself, 'Geez, I wonder what the players are thinking. Did we do anything at all, or what?' " After the mania of 19-1 fizzled, Morgan started to get attention (some of it negative) for his unorthodox managing style. More than once he relied on hunches and gut feelings, and some of the decisions blew up in his face.

In early September, as the pennant race sizzled, Morgan summoned baby-faced rookie pitcher Mike Rochford for his major-league debut with the winning run on second and dangerous Wally Joyner at the plate. Rochford got ahead on the count, then made a poor pitch, and Joyner singled home the winning run. In late August, Morgan let Roger Clemens stay in too long against the Brewers, and Clemens surrendered a game-winning homer to Joey Meyer. He trusted lefty reliever Tom Bolton when no one else would, and Bolton failed. He pinch-hit Owen for Rice, then stunned the New York media by sending Rice up to hit for five-time batting champ Wade Boggs in a crucial Yankee Stadium series on the next-to-last weekend of the season.

"I just have a feeling," Morgan would usually say. Sometimes the heart overrules the head. Morgan goes with the flow.

"I'm not a big 'book' guy all the way," he says. "I think you see so many games over the course of your career. There are so many situations that are alike and so many years that look alike, and days. And I think a lot of times maybe you read too much into it. After you've seen thousands of games and been involved in 'em, you start thinking about the way the trend might go. A lot of times you're right, and sometimes you're wrong. If I had my chance again, I wouldn't let Clemens go out in the game when Meyer hit the home run. He said, 'Yeah, I'll go out again if you want me to,' and that should have been enough for me, but it wasn't."

He believes that larger forces sometimes call the shots. This is a rare quality in a major-league manager, but it's handy for one who manages in Boston. Sox fans are trained to follow the Calvinist doctine of predestiny, and Morgan is willing to admit that some days it's just not in the cards for his team to win.

"It happens," he says. "It's hard to believe, but look what happened to Oakland in the World Series. They quit hittin' like we did. I don't know. Baseball is so streaky. When I played, I hated the word 'luck.' If I had to rely on luck to do anything, I wouldn't bet 10 cents, but the more you watch it, there is luck involved. I hate to admit it, but there is. Like a ball just goes foul, and then you make an out, or the bases are loaded, and then you line out. It can go on for days, the fort unes going against you."

Morgan knows the honeymoon will end. He has it better than most, but it's rare that any Sox manager can live up to the annual springtime expectations. Morgan says he can handle it. He knows all about second-guessing; that's what he does when he watches the Patriots, the Bruins, or the Boston College and Walpole High football teams.

"Second-guess? You're darn right I do," says the manager. "And I've always told my players, 'I don't care if you second-guess me.' That's why there are so many managers around here. I get a lot of letters from people who love to bunt. The lineup is another biggie with the letter writers. Some of 'em are very good, and some have Mike Greenwell leading off . . . I remember when we were 12-0, and I got my first letter. Twelve straight wins, right? You know what the guy said? 'You got the wrong lineup on the field.'

"We get plenty of letters. Priests, nuns, ministers, rabbis. They all send letters, and, of course, they're all rooting for the Red Sox. Well, let me tell you something. I've never prayed for a win in my life. I pray for my soul. Sound corny?"

Like everybody else who grew up in Walpole, Morgan knows the Red Sox history of fall folds. His face lights up when he's asked what it would be like around here if the Red Sox ever won it all.

"I'd say there'd be a few parades in all directions," submits the manager. "All over New England. Probably if I were the manager, there'd certainly be one in Walpole."

And maybe a special parade down the Massachusetts Turnpike?

"Down the Pike," he says, flashing a smile of satisfaction. "Thirty-five miles an hour, Weston to Framingham.  
  Boston Globe

October 7, 1988

Author: Michael Madden, Globe Staff

Article Text:

Hanging on the wall in the Fenway Park office of Joe Morgan is one picture. It is the only picture in the office. The picture is of the winner's circle at Rockingham Park a few years ago, a picture of jockey Carl Gambardella aboard a horse called . . . Manager Joe Morgan.

"He paid $12.20 . . . and I didn't have a dime on him," says Morgan of this story about that subject, money. "We were in Dee-troit (Morgan always * pronounces Detroit as a John R. Tunis character from the bushes might -- Dee- troit), and I didn't even know he was running. Not a dime on 'im. By the way, he's down in Florida now and he's running as a steeplechaser . . . "

So manager Joe Morgan never made a penny on Manager Joe Morgan ("Aw, he only won one of seven, and I was in Dee-troit when he won the one"), and he made not much more during his long, long career in the bushes. This is baseball, the other side of baseball, minor league baseball. Money is scarce.

He who has placed a bob or two on a horse can quote prices down to the exact dime. He who seldom has had much money in his life can remember his first salary, the little one, to the exact dollar, just as he can recall the exact payoff of the big score. For Morgan, the big score was the 1986 World Series. Until now, when . . .

Morgan's salary is $190,000 a year now, but that is now. Then? There were so many thens. Then, in his first year as manager, "I got 10 grand, but I had to be a player-manager to get the 10 grand, $7,000 for managing and $3,000 for playing." As always, there is a story.

"Harry Walker got me my first job -- I was with Pittsburgh at the time -- and he told me he'd pay me $7,000. And I said, 'Cripes, I can't buy soap to wash my hands for $7,000. I got four kids. So Harry said, 'Well, if you're a player-manager, we'll give you 10 but you won't have to play much. Bull . . . I played 104 games."

Now Morgan is on the frigid field of Fenway before the second game of the American League playoffs. Now he is surrounded by many media, now he is the center of attention and now -- so many years later -- he is making a wage that can buy soap for the year.

"What's the most you ever made with the Red Sox as a coach?" Morgan is asked.

'Take a guess," replies the manager.


"That's close."

Even when he was at Pawtucket, just one step away from Boston, managing the players who soon would lead the big Red Sox to contention and a World Series or two, Morgan made comparatively little.

"I made the most at Pawtucket, and it was $23,000," he recalls. "That wasn't bad in the minors, though. The point there is that there is no money to be made in the minor leagues. The only guys who make any money are guys who were in the big leagues and came down. They don't get chopped up that much."

So money had to be made during the offseason. So Morgan took to his plow and the Massachusetts Turnpike for 10 years and plowed the pike, the best payday being "the Blizzard of '78. Plenty of overtime then . . . I was over there four straight days and nights. I made a ton."

Here Morgan pauses to ask his question, as he often does, since there is dialogue with Joe Morgan and few monologues. "Gentlemen," he asks, "why are we talking about money? I'm going to tell you why . . . because you play this game for money, that's what you play for. You've got to love the game, but you're playing for money. Just like you guys; you're writing for money, aren't you?"

He is at the top of his world now, but not far from that top is the memory of the other days, his plowing days, "when I hoped it would snow, but only during the week. Not on weekends and not on Christmas and not on New Year's, because you had to be there every time it snowed. That was part of the job . . . if you don't show, you're out of there." And if the snow didn't come, then "I'd do everything," says Morgan. "I'd saw wood, everything, paint, everything, because I had to work 40 hours a week . I love to work . . . but I became lazy after the World Series of '86."

That's when Morgan finally got his share of the baseball bounty ("That share was seventy-four thousand, nine hundred and some pennies"), and "that was a pretty good check, boys. The government took a good clout of it, and I threw the rest in a bank. I bought a pickup truck, bought my wife a mink coat that I promised her 27 years ago, and I said, 'You won't get one until we get into the World Series.' Neither one of us forgot."

Never. Not about the money. No, Morgan's only regret is that he never sold himself to major league general managers. That is his only regret, that Joe Morgan never shouted to the baseball world about Joe Morgan.

"What I'm saying to people who are down there and managing . . . well, you either know you can manage or you can't," he says. "I knew that I could manage from Day 1. And I'm talking about people who work at Polaroid and everywhere -- if you know you can do the job, then you've got to sell yourself. See, I laid back and figured that somebody would see me and they'll know I'm good and all that crap, but it didn't work."

Until now. When there is money, at last. When he is where he always thought he should be, managing in the big leagues, managing for a pennant. Win or lose against Oakland, this still must be a season in which the good guys finally won.  
Articles too lengthy to fit on the Irish Elk blog.

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