×

Joe Morgan, driving force of Big Red Machine, dies at 77

In this Saturday, Oct. 16, 1976, file photo, Cincinnati second baseman Joe Morgan tips his helmet to the fans as he rounds the bases after a homer in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan has died. A family spokesman says he died at his home Sunday in Danville, Calif. (AP Photo/File)

CINCINNATI (AP) — At 5-foot-7, he was the smallest cog in the Big Red Machine. And to his star-powered teammates, Joe Morgan was a driving force, too.

Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman who became the sparkplug of dominant Cincinnati teams in the mid-1970s and the prototype for baseball’s artificial turf era, has died. He was 77.

He died at his home Sunday in Danville, California, family spokesman James Davis said in statement Monday. Morgan was suffering from a nerve condition, a form of polyneuropathy.

“Joe Morgan was quite simply the best baseball player I played against or saw,” Reds Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench texted to The Associated Press.

Morgan’s death marked the latest among major league greats this year: Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver and Al Kaline.

“All champions. This hurts the most,” Bench said.

Morgan was a two-time NL Most Valuable Player, a 10-time All-Star and won five Gold Gloves. A dynamo known for flapping his left elbow at the plate, Little Joe could hit a home run, steal a base and disrupt any game with his daring.

Most of all, he completed Cincinnati’s two-time World Series championship team, boosting a club featuring the likes of Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Bench to back-to-back titles.

“Joe would always amaze me,” Rose told the AP. “He was by far the most intelligent player I’ve ever been around. He rubbed off on all of us. A big part of the Big Red Machine.”

Morgan’s tiebreaking single with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 7 in 1975 gave the Reds the crown in a classic matchup with Boston, and he spurred a four-game sweep of the Yankees the next season.

In a 22-year career through 1984, Morgan scored 1,650 runs, stole 689 bases, hit 268 homers and batted .271. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.

Newsletter

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
   

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today