Mike Morgan 1988 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 15, 2017

IMG_9781Has there ever been a career quite like that of Mike Morgan? The short answer is no. Nobody has pitched for more different big league teams over a career than Morgan—12 in all. And his career spanned from the late 1970s with the Charlie Finley A’s all the way past the September 11th-healing World Series of 2001.

His career has been a sea of contradictions. Morgan was a talented pitcher brought to the majors too quickly and a wily veteran who extended his career longer than anyone would have guessed. He was one of the top picks in the draft and a coveted prospect. And he was a forgotten player exposed in the Rule 5 draft.

Morgan played on a Yankee team with many of the players of the great 1970s squads and played against the greatest New York players of the Joe Torre era.

Morgan played alongside Red Sox tormentors like Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone. And he was teammates with curse busters David Ortiz and Curt Schilling.

He surrendered Carl Yastrzemski’s 400th home run in 1979 and Mark McGwire’s 61st home run in 1998. He was the losing pitcher of Dennis Martinez’s perfect game.

Morgan pitched over 10 seasons in the majors before he had a winning season and for a long time was the poster boy for unfulfilled potential. Yet he would finish his career with 141 wins, become a millionaire 20 times over, earn a World Series ring and make the All-Star team.

To truly see what a wild ride Morgan’s career truly was, take a look at some of the players he crossed paths with and the managers who put him in the game. There are Hall of Famers, MVPs and Cy Young winners. Plus, he had a list of bullpen closers that went from Hall of Fame legends to players who barely were noticed when they played.

From John Candelaria to Deion Sanders, Tony Armas to Bobby Murcer, Rafael Palmeiro to Jack Cust, they all had Morgan in common.

Let’s take a closer look, starting with his managers.

Morgan’s managers

Jack McKeon – 1978 A’s and 1997 Reds
Jim Marshall – 1979 A’s
Bob Lemon – 1982 Yankees
Gene Michael – 1982 Yankees
Clyde King – 1982 Yankees
Bobby Cox – 1983 Blue Jays
Chuck Cottier – 1985 and 1986 Mariners
Marty Martinez – 1986 Mariners
Dick Williams – 1986 and 1987 Mariners
Cal Ripken – 1988 Orioles
Frank Robinson – 1988 Orioles
Tommy Lasorda – 1989-1991 Dodgers
Jim Lefebvre – 1992-1993 Cubs
Tom Trebelhorn – 1994 Cubs
Jim Riggleman – 1995 and 1998 Cubs
Mike Jorgensen – 1995 Cardinals
Tony LaRussa – 1996 Cardinals
Ray Knight – 1996 and 1997 Reds
Tom Kelly – 1998 Twins
Johnny Oates – 1999 Rangers
Buck Showalter – 2000 Diamondbacks
Bob Brenly – 2001 and 2002 Diamondbacks

Cox, LaRussa, Williams and Lasorda are already in the Hall of Fame. So are Lemon and Robinson as players. And if Showalter turns Baltimore into a champion, who knows? Maybe he’ll make it in, too.

Current Hall of Famers who were Morgan’s teammates

Andre Dawson – 1992 Cubs
Dennis Eckersley – 1996 Cardinals
Rich Gossage – 1982 Yankees
Rickey Henderson – 1979 A’s
Randy Johnson – 2000-2002 Diamondbacks
Barry Larkin – 1996-1997 Reds
Greg Maddux – 1992 Cubs
Paul Molitor – 1998 Twins
Eddie Murray – 1988 Orioles and 1989 Dodgers
Cal Ripken Jr. – 1988 Orioles
Ivan Rodriguez – 1999 Rangers
Ryne Sandberg – 1992-1994 Cubs
Ozzie Smith – 1995-1996 Cardinals
Dave Winfield – 1982 Yankees

Maybe Curt Schilling from the Diamondbacks, David Ortiz from the 1998 Twins will join the list. Maybe someday Rafael Palmeiro as well.

Morgan’s bullpen closers

Elias Sosa – 1978 A’s
Dave Heaverlo – 1978 A’s
Rich Gossage – 1982 Yankees
Randy Moffitt – 1983 Blue Jays
Edwin Nunez – 1985 and 1987 Mariners
Matt Young – 1986 Mariners
Bill Wilkinson – 1987 Mariners
Tom Niedenfuer – 1988 Orioles
Jay Howell – 1989-1991 Dodgers
Bob Scanlan – 1992 Cubs
Randy Myers – 1993-1995 Cubs
Tom Henke – 1995 Cardinals
Dennis Eckersley – 1996 Cardinals
Jeff Brantley – 1996 Reds
Jeff Shaw – 1997 Reds
Rick Aguilera – 1998 Twins
Rod Beck – 1998 Cubs
John Wetteland – 1999 Rangers
Matt Mantei – 2000 Diamondbacks
Byung-Hyun Kim – 2001 and 2002 Diamondbacks

A pair of Hall of Famers and other world champion closers mixed in with some names I bet you forgot. How else can you connect Heaverlo and Wetteland?

MVPs who played with Morgan

Rickey Henderson – 1979 A’s
Fred Lynn – 1988 Orioles
Cal Ripken Jr. – 1988 Orioles
Kirk Gibson – 1989-1990 Dodgers
Andre Dawson – 1992 Cubs
Ryne Sandberg – 1992-1994 Cubs
Sammy Sosa – 1993-1995 and 1998 Cubs*
Dennis Eckersley – 1996 Cardinals
Willie McGee – 1996 Cardinals
Barry Larkin – 1996 and 1997 Reds
Kevin Mitchell – 1996 Reds
Juan Gonzalez – 1999 Rangers
Ivan Rodriguez – 1999 Rangers*

*Indicates they won the award with Morgan as a teammate.

Cy Young winners who played with Morgan

Ron Guidry – 1982 Yankees
Orel Hershiser – 1989-1991 Dodgers
Fernando Valenzuela – 1989 and 1990 Dodgers
Greg Maddux – 1992 Cubs*
Dennis Eckersley – 1996 Cardinals
Randy Johnson – 2000-2001-2002 Diamondbacks*

*Indicates they won the award with Morgan as a teammate.

Rookie of the Year winners who played with Morgan

Lou Piniella – 1982 Yankees
Dave Righetti – 1982 Yankees
Alvin Davis – 1985 Mariners
Gary Matthews – 1987 Mariners
Fred Lynn – 1988 Orioles
Eddie Murray – 1988 Orioles
Cal Ripken, Jr. – 1988 Orioles
Fernando Valenzuela – 1989 and 1990 Dodgers
Alfredo Griffin – 1989-1991 Dodgers
Eric Karros – 1991 Dodgers
Darryl Strawberry – 1991 Dodgers
Andre Dawson – 1992 Cubs
Jerome Walton – 1992 Cubs
Chris Sabo – 1995 Cardinals
Marty Cordova – 1998 Twins

Both Morgan and 1985 NL Rookie of the Year Vince Coleman played for the 1996 Cincinnati Reds, but Coleman was released by the Reds before they acquired Morgan, so the two were never technically teammates.

Batting champs who played with Morgan

Fred Lynn – 1988 Orioles
Willie Wilson – 1993 Cubs
Willie McGee – 1996 Cardinals

Home run champs who played with Morgan

Tony Armas – 1978 A’s
Graig Nettles – 1982 Yankees
Jesse Barfield – 1983 Blue Jays
Gorman Thomas – 1985 and 1986 Mariners
Eddie Murray – 1988 Orioles
Darryl Strawberry – 1991 Dodgers
Sammy Sosa – 1993-1995 and 1998 Cubs
Kevin Mitchell – 1996 Reds
Matt Williams – 2000-2002 Diamondbacks

This list includes people who were former home run champs or would become home run champs after playing with Morgan.

And if this jaw-droppingly wide net of players from different eras is not a clear illustration of the Forrest Gump-like career of Mike Morgan, look at the contrast of players he faced in his first big league year, 1978. That was when Charlie O. Finley drafted Morgan out of Valley High School in Las Vegas and sent him straight to the majors for publicity.

Batters Morgan faced in 1978

Don Baylor
Mark Belanger
Bobby Bonds
George Brett
Bert Campaneris
Cecil Cooper
Doug DeCinces
Dwight Evans
Carlton Fisk
“Disco” Dan Ford
Bobby Grich
Mike Hargrove
Toby Harrah
Butch Hobson
Willie Horton
Reggie Jackson
Fred Lynn
Paul Molitor
Bobby Murcer
Eddie Murray
Lou Piniella
Willie Randolph
Jim Rice
Joe Rudi
Ken Singleton
Frank White
Willie Wilson
Carl Yastrzemski
Robin Yount

Now compare those names to the batters he faced as a grizzled 42-year-old respected veteran in 2002.

Batters Morgan faced in 2002

Lance Berkman
Craig Biggio
Sean Burroughs
Mark DeRosa
J. D. Drew
Jim Edmonds
Brian Giles
Vladimir Guerrero
Todd Helton
Derek Jeter
Derek Lee
Tino Martinez
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Kevin Millar
Mike Piazza
Aramis Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Mo Vaughn
Vernon Wells
Bernie Williams

Now that is spreading some time. From Gary Matthews senior to junior. There were participants of the 1967 and 1968 World Series and people who played in the 2010 World Series who faced Mike Morgan!

So tip your cap to a respected veteran All-Star world champion who is 177th on the all-time innings pitched list. Forget Kevin Bacon. He has nothing on Mike Morgan’s connections.


(An earlier edition of this post was written for The Hardball Times in 2011).