Morgan creates 200/500 club
Speed and power are dangerous tools. Possessing either can help a player to a successful career, but possessing both can lead to enshrinement among baseball’s immortals.
No one knew this better than Joe Morgan, who hit his 200th career home run on Aug. 27, 1978, to become the first player in big league history with 200 homers and 500 stolen bases.
The undersized second baseman packed the potent combination of speed and power into his 5-foot-7-inch frame, giving him an uncommon advantage.
“Morgan might just be the most complete player in the league,” Montreal Expos manager Gene Mauch said in 1973.
Morgan’s consistently well-rounded statistics back Mauch’s statement. In his 22-year career, the 10-time All-Star posted a .271 batting average, hit 268 home runs and stole 689 bases.
His 200th home run came in in the bottom of the third inning off of Cubs’ pitcher Mike Krukow, accounting for the Cincinnati Reds’ only run in a 7-1 loss to Chicago.
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At the time, Morgan had already amassed 500 stolen bases, reaching that milestone on Sept. 15, 1976, against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Commonly regarded as one of the catalysts of the Big Red Machine Cincinnati teams of the 1970s, Morgan won back-to-back World Series rings in 1975 and 1976, also earning National League Most Valuable Player honors in both years.
He won five consecutive Gold Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award in 1982.
“Joe Morgan makes things happen,” former Cincinnati third base coach Alex Grammas told the Dayton Daily Herald in 1976. “He makes you play an aggressive game all by himself.”
Morgan’s speed on the base paths was one of the qualities that kept opposing players on their toes. Morgan was successful in 81 percent of his stolen base attempts.
“He was the first one I remember to take the long lead, and you couldn’t pick him off,” former big league pitcher Jim Rooker said. “He showed that to everyone on that ball club.”
Morgan retired following the 1984 season, and was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990, joining fellow Class of 1990 member Jim Palmer in becoming the 25th and 26th first-ballot Hall of Famers.
“I knew if I walked him and he felt good, he’d steal second,” Palmer said of a meeting on the field with Morgan, “And if he felt really good, he’d steal third. That would be like throwing a triple. So I gave him a low fastball, and he hit a home run.”
Kristen Gowdy was a public relations intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum