Morris’ foray into free agency helped Twins win championship

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

Jack Morris debuted with the Tigers in July of 1977, replacing Detroit legend Mark Fidrych on the roster.

By the time Morris left the Tigers more than 13 years later, Morris was a legend himself.

On Feb. 5, 1991, Morris signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Twins – ending a 14-season run in Motown.

The deal was for one year plus two option years at Morris’ choice, worth a reported $7 million.

For the 35-year-old Morris, it was a chance to pitch close to his birthplace: St. Paul, Minn.

“I’ve wanted to play in Minnesota since I was a kid,” Morris told the Detroit Free Press. “This isn’t about money. The Tigers offered me a lot of money. It’s a business decision.

“Free agent means free agent, and I was looking to better myself.”

Morris turned down a reported three-year, $9.3 million offer from the Tigers – the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 1976 MLB Draft out of Brigham Young University.

After getting his feet wet professionally in Double-A in 1976, Morris began 1977 with the Triple-A Evansville Triplets.

He was brought up to the majors when Fidrych – a national sensation as a rookie in 1976 – was placed on the disabled with tendinitis in his right arm on July 25.

By 1979, Morris was a fixture in the Tigers’ rotation, winning 17 games. He was the team’s Opening Day starter in 1980, a role he filled every year through 1990.

When he left for the Twins, Morris was second on the Tigers’ all-time list in strikeouts and games started, fourth in innings pitched and fifth in victories.

He was also the ace of the 1984 World Series team, notching complete game victories in Games 1 and 4 in the five-game victory over the Padres.

Morris joined a Twins franchise that finished in last place in the American League West in 1990.

But with his trademark intensity inspiring his new teammates, Morris helped Minnesota win the division and defeat the favored Blue Jays in the 1991 American League Championship Series.

In the World Series, Morris won Game 1 over the Braves and took a no-decision in Game 4 after allowing just one run over six innings.

In Game 7, Morris started for the third time in the series – working 10 shutout innings and picking up the win on Gene Larkin’s single that clinched the title.

For his efforts, Morris was named the World Series Most Valuable Player.

Morris decided to re-enter the free agent market after the Fall Classic, signing a two-year deal with the Blue Jays worth more than $10 million.

He helped Toronto win World Series titles in both 1992 and 1993.

After spending the 1994 season with the Indians, Morris called it a career with a record of 254-186 and five All-Star Game selections. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2018.

“I gave it my all,” Morris told the Free Press as he left for Minnesota. “It’s hard leaving this behind. But I’m at peace with myself.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series