Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan has died at the age of 77. Morgan was the sparkplug for the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds title-winning teams during the 1970s.
He died at his home in Danville, California on October 11, family spokesperson James Davis said in an October 12 statement. Morgan suffered from a nerve condition, a form of polyneuropathy.
Morgan’s death was the latest among MLB legends this year. This list includes Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver and Al Kaline.
Morgan was a two-time NL Most Valuable Player, a 10-time All-Star and a five-time Gold Glove winner. Additionally, he was a huge part of Cincinnati’s two-time World Series championship team during the ’70s. Morgan helped drive a club featuring fellow Hall of Famers including Pete Rose, Johhny Bench and Tony Perez to back-to-back titles.
Morgan’s tiebreaking single with two outs during the ninth inning of Game 7 in 1975 gave the Reds the title against Boston, and he helped lead a four-game sweep of the Yankees next year in 1976. Morgan also won NL MVP during both seasons.
“He was just a good major league player when it didn’t mean anything,” former Reds and Tigers manager Sparky Anderson once said. “But when it meant something, he was a Hall of Famer.”
In his 22-year career through 1984, Morgan scored 1,650 runs, stole 698 bases, hit 268 home runs and batted .271. The 5-foot-7 second baseman’s unique habit of flapping his back elbow as a way to keep it high when hitting was imitated by young baseball players around the world for years to come.
“Joe wasn’t just the best second baseman in baseball history,” Bench said. “He was the best player I ever saw and one of the best people I’ve ever known.”
“The Reds family is heartbroken. Joe was a giant in the game and was adored by the fans in this city,” Reds CEO Bob Castellini said in a statement. “He had a lifelong loyalty and dedication to this organization that extended to our current team and front office staff. As a cornerstone on one of the greatest teams in baseball history, his contributions to this franchise will live forever. Our hearts ache for his Big Red Machine teammates.”
In recent years, Morgan was getting slowed down by health issues. Knee surgery forced him to use a can when he walked onto the field at Great American Ball Park before the 2015 All-Star game and he later needed a bone marrow transplant for an illness.
Morgan is survived by Theresa, his wife of 30 years; their twin daughters Kelly and Ashley; and daughters Lisa and Angela from his first marriage to Gloria Morgan.