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Joe Morgan - Growing Up

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Joseph Leonard Morgan was born in 1943 in Bonham Texas. The first of six children born to Leonard and Ollie Morgan, he would later call his family the main source of this strength. While Joe was still a child, the Morgans left Texas and settled in a neighborhood in Oakland, California. Morgan was soon an avid player of "Army Ball," a three player variant of stickball. He and his family were also enthusiastic baseball fans. In particular, they became devoted followers of the Oakland Oaks, the town's Pacific Coast League team whose park was just blocks from the Morgan home. As a teenager Morgan played Babe Ruth League and high school ball. He entered Oakland City College intending to study business and played on the school team there. Morgan was already showing a knack for playing on successful teams. His high school team won the Oakland Athletic League championship and his college team won its divisional title.

Oakland was a hotbed of young baseball talent in the middle 1950s, and Morgan, a leading hitter and base stealer on his teams, should have quickly attracted the attention of a major league team. However, he had one major disadvantage in the eyes of most scouts—Morgan was barely five feet seven inches in height. He seemed much too short to be a serious prospect and only one team showed any interest, an expansion team, the Houston Colt 45s, who would eventually be renamed the Astros. In 1963, Houston offered Morgan a $500-a-month minor league contract, together with an unspectacular bonus of $3,000. Morgan was nonetheless delighted by the chance to play big league ball. His father, a former semi-pro ballplayer, was pleased for his son, but Morgan's mother took a more practical view. She was concerned that once Joe left college to play ball he would never return. Morgan promised her that he would eventually finish college. More than 25 years later, he kept the promise. He got his college degree in 1990, the same year he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Morgan advanced quickly through the minors, from the instructional league in Moultree Georgia, to the Modesto (California) Reds, to the Durham (South Carolina) Bulls. In his first at bat with Durham in 1963, he hit a game-winning home run. While playing in Georgia and South Carolina Morgan experienced for the first time in his life the ugly racism of segregated hotels, restaurants, and drinking fountains, and obscene racist insults. It so shocked him that he briefly considered leaving baseball to escape it. Only his unflagging devotion to perfecting his baseball skills and the thought that he would be letting down his parents gave Morgan the strength to continue.

Joe Morgan - Playing With Houston [next]

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almost 11 years ago

Joe, being admitted to cooperstown is right where he should be. And he's still with us doing his all pro work as a baseball analyst.

Long live Joe Morgan