For better or worse, many current major-league managers can’t remember watching Joe Morgan in his prime, or weren’t even here yet. Rays manager Kevin Cash, born in December 1977, the year after Morgan won his second straight National League Most Valuable Player award, belongs to this group.
Then there’s Dusty Baker, Cash’s opposing skipper in this American League Championship Series. The Astros’ manager, the oldest in all of baseball at 71, served as a contemporary and friend of Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman who died on Sunday of a nerve condition.
“I knew he was sick,” Baker said of Morgan on Monday, before ALCS Game 2 at Petco Park. “…I tried to call him because I haven’t talked to him maybe in a month, and usually we go no longer than a couple of weeks for me to ask him something, or ask him for advice, or whatever — or sometime he’ll just give it to me. And so I knew that something was wrong. I didn’t know exactly what. So it sort of shocked me that he passed away so quickly after everybody was asking me and (former Astro) Enos Cabell as much as anybody, have we heard from Joe.
“He meant a lot to us, a lot to me, a lot to baseball, a lot to African-Americans around the country, a lot to players that were considered undersized. He was the one of the first examples of speed and power for a guy they said was too small of a player. He was the first, like, modern-day (Jose) Altuve. He was a heck of a person, heck of a guy, great father, great businessman. …Whatever he put his mind to, Joe was good at.”
While Baker and Morgan never were teammates, they shared Northern California roots, and both spent nearly all of their careers in the National League in the days before interleague play. In the mid-to-late ‘70s, Baker’s Dodgers and Morgan’s Reds were fierce NL West rivals.
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