Joe Morgan - Playing With Houston
Playing with Houston
Morgan started the 1964 season with Houston's AA team in San Antonio where he was named the Texas League's Most Valuable Player with a .323 average, 90 runs batted in, 12 homers and 47 stolen bases. At the end of 1964 he played a few games with Houston. One of his hits helped knock the Philadelphia Phillies out of the pennant race. In the Phillies clubhouse after the game, manager Gene Mauch overturned a table full of food. "Mauch stood there, his face reddening," according to the Houston Chronicle's Mickey Herskowitz, "and screamed at his startled players: 'Have you no shame? You just got beat by a guy who looks like a Little Leaguer!'"
Morgan skipped AAA ball completely and jumped directly to the Astros in 1965. The team had just moved to its new ballpark, the Astrodome, the first domed park in baseball and the first to use Astroturf instead of natural grass. Morgan realized that a player with his speed and hitting ability was the type most suited to playing in such a park with its vast spaces and fast artificial grass surface. After his good rookie year, batting .271 with 14 home runs, 40 RBIs and 20 stolen bases, the Sporting News named him their Rookie of the Year. But it was Morgan's bearing that impressed his teammates most. "To me he was never really a rookie," Jimmy Wynn, Morgan's roommate on the Astros recalled to Mickey Herskowitz of the Houston Chronicle. "The way he handled himself, his poise, his knowledge … he had the look of a veteran player." Morgan played with the Astros until 1971 when conflicts with Houston manager Harry Walker came to a head and he was traded. Morgan regretted leaving the Astros, but his real career was just beginning—with the Cincinnati Reds.