Joe Morgan 1990 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 4, 2017


Walpole Joe Morgan is one of my favorite figures in Red Sox history. He was a local guy who made it all the way to the major league manager’s job and gave Red Sox fans one of their most memorable summers ever and a pair of trips to the postseason.

In some ways, the Red Sox victory in 2004 was perfect. It came right after the Aaron Boone/Grady Little debacle and had the amazing climax of vanquishing the Yankees in a way that nobody thought was possible. And Terry Francona, with his self effacing humor and respect of the clubhouse and fans, was the perfect manager.

But Joe Morgan and the 1988 Red Sox could have been a magical champ for many reasons.

The Red Sox were still reeling from the shock of the 1986 World Series. The 1987 season was lost after injuries, free agent defections and a thinned out rotation. In 1988, John McNamara and company had desires to get back on top with a combination of young players like Ellis Burks and Mike Greenwell along with veterans like Jim Rice, Marty Barrett and Dwight Evans. With the trade for Lee Smith done in the winter, Boston looked like a potential contender.

But when the team began 43-42 at the All Star break, the embattled Red Sox front office dismissed baseball lifer John McNamara from the manager’s role. Had the Red Sox got one more strike a year and a half prior, McNamara would have revered as an all time figure in Boston. Now he was disposable.

While Boston searched for another manager, they handed the reigns on an interim basis to third base coach Joe Morgan. He was so anonymous outside of Boston that some outlets reported that they had signed Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan.

Nope. It was Walpole Joe. He was a local guy, born in Walpole and who went to Boston College. He had a thick New England accent and a hard edge to him that you would expect him to be someone your family knew at the hardware store and not the manager of the team. He drove a snowplow to clear up the Turnpike for 10 New England winters.

Now of course, he was NOT the 14th caller on WEEI. He was a baseball player who played several years in the majors. He was on the Pirates coaching staff in the 1970’s and managed and coached throughout the Red Sox organizations. While managing Pawtucket, Morgan was a candidate for the Red Sox manager’s job at the end of the 1980 season.

He clearly was a stop gap while a true managerial search was conducted. The team returned from the All Star break in 4th place, a game over .500 on July 15th to play a double header against the Royals.

Boston won both games.

The next day, they won on a walk off homer from reserve outfielder Kevin Romine.

The winning kept piling up. 5 in a row, then 10. They won the first 12 games under Joe Morgan and 19 straight at Fenway Park. The press called it Morgan’s Magic.

He had a heated exchange with Jim Rice when the slumping superstar was pushed further down the lineup, screaming “I’m the manager of this nine!” The interim label was removed.

The team, that was 9 games out at the All Star game, was tied for first on August 3rd.

But then the magic seemed to be gone. A 4 game sweep by the defending AL East champion Tigers pushed them 4 games back and dropped 7 of 9 at one point. A burst in September put Boston in first place by themselves on September 5th and built a lead as big as 6 games on September 18th.

They lost 8 of their last 12 games, stumbling into the post season as the Tigers lost as well, earning the Red Sox the AL East crown. While Boston was swept in the ALCS, they played harder than the 4 and out result would suggest. Games 1 and 2 were 1 run losses at home and Game 3, they took an early lead. The A’s were a little too much for Morgan’s Magic.

But had they held onto those two games at home and rode Clemens, Hurst and Boddicker into the World Series, the 1988 team would have been a beloved team. They had lots of young blood, like Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks, Jody Reed and Todd Benzinger.

Also Rice, Barrett, Evans, Clemens, Hurst, Wade Boggs, Spike Owen, Bob Stanley, Rich Gedman, Ed Romero and the injured Oil Can Boyd were left over from the 1986 squad.

Picture a combination of young players and beloved veterans winning it all in Boston with a guy who used to drive the snow plow leading the way.

It would have been the stuff of legends.

Morgan led the Red Sox to another down to the wire division title in 1990 before once again getting swept out by the A’s. After 1991, the Red Sox were worried that Butch Hobson (my favorite player as a kid) was too valuable a managerial prospect to let walk to another organization from the minor leagues. So Joe Morgan was canned.

Morgan warned the front office “this team is not as good as you think it is.” He was right as the team bombed under Hobson.

Walpole Joe is still with us, still being celebrated as a Boston folk hero. They didn’t win it all with him, but he gave the team, and all of use fans, a summer of magic.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – February 22, 2016


Today is part 2 of my conversation with Ted Sullivan, TV writer and producer who also happens to be my brother.

He also makes fun of my computer.

It is an all in the family episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

Follow my brother Ted on Twitter by clicking HERE

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Post Season MVPs versus their past or future teams – Another insane Sully Baseball list

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that every once in a while an idle thought would enter my cranium and it would evolve into me doing an elaborate list writing entry here.

My entire 800 page Home Grown vs Acquired Series started from the simple question “I wonder if the Red Sox had better luck acquiring players from other teams or developing their own talent.”

I chronicled how my ideas can germinate into a blog post with my “Making of a Blog Post” entry. Well it happened again.

While on the treadmill watching coverage of the Yankees and Rangers courtship of Cliff Lee, I thought “The Yankees are trying to bring in a guy who consistently beat them in October. I wonder how many players have joined a team they beat in the playoffs.”

Later I got more specific. “I wonder how many times a playoff MVP joined the team that he beat.”

Then I thought “I wonder how many playoff MVPs won their award against a team they USED to play for.”

And finally the question “How many players won a playoff MVP and then later played in the post season AGAINST the team that he won the award for?”

This is how my mind works, people.

And I can’t just leave these thoughts hanging.
I have to list them.

And I did.

Post Season MVPs who joined the team they beat

1966 World Series MVP for the Baltimore Orioles against the
Los Angeles Dodgers.
Joined the Dodgers in 1972

1984 ALCS MVP for the Detroit Tigers against the
Kansas City Royals
Joined the Royals in 1991

1988 ALCS MVP for the Oakland Athletics against the
Boston Red Sox
Joined the Red Sox in 1998

1988 NLCS MVP for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the
New York Mets
Joined the Mets in 1999.

1989 ALCS MVP for the Oakland Athletics against the
Toronto Blue Jays
Joined the Blue Jays in 1993

2001 World Series Co-MVP for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the New York Yankees
Joined the Yankees in 2005.

Post Season MVPs who beat
a team they used to play for

1957 World Series MVP for the Milwaukee Braves against the
New York Yankees.
Played for the Yankees in 1950.

1986 NLCS MVP for the Houston Astros against the
New York Mets.
Played for the Mets from 1979-1982

1988 ALCS MVP for the Oakland Athletics against the
Boston Red Sox
Played for the Red Sox from 1978-1984

1990 World Series MVP for the Cincinnati Reds against the Oakland Athletics
Played for the Athletics from 1985-1987

Post Season MVPs who later played against their team in the Post Season

1956 World Series MVP for the
New York Yankees
Pitched in the 1962 World Series for the San Francisco Giants against the Yankees

1973 World Series MVP for the
Oakland A’s
Played in the 1981 ALCS for the New York Yankees against the A’s

I find it interesting that Dennis Eckersley appeared on the list twice.
I am guessing you did too.

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