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By Eric Umphrey
The Times 

Gibson, Ford, and Morgan

 

October 15, 2020

Three baseball Hall of Famers, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, and Joe Morgan, all passed away within nine days from October 2 to October 11. Together their combined careers spanned from 1950 to 1984. All won multiple World Series Championships.

Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford (October 21, 1928 – October 8, 2020)

Whitey Ford played his whole sixteen-year career with the New York Yankees. He was named to the All-Star team ten times and won six World Series for New York. He still holds Yankee team records for wins, shutouts, and innings pitched. After his rookie season in 1950, he spent the next two years serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War before returning to the Yankees in 1953. After retiring, Ford admitted to scuffing the baseball late in his career. The following is a story from Say Hey: The Autobiography of Willie Mays:

Ford admitted to doctoring the ball in the 1961 All-Star Game at Candlestick Park to strike out Willie Mays. Ford and Mantle had accumulated $1,200 in golf pro shop purchases as Horace Stoneham guests at the Giants owner’s country club. Stoneham promised to pay their tab if Ford could strike out Mays. “What was that all about?” Mays asked. “I’m sorry, Willie, but I had to throw you a splitter,” Ford replied.

Pack Robert Gibson (November 9, 1935 – October 2, 2020)

Before making the Cardinals major league team, Bob Gibson briefly played with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1957. He left the Globetrotters because he didn’t like all of the antics during their games and had just wanted to play basketball.

He played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1959-1975, winning two World Series titles in 1964 and 1967. Gibson was the World Series MVP for both Series. He won CY Young awards in 1968 and 1970 and was also the National League MVP in 1968. During his career, he earned nine gold gloves for his defense as a pitcher. Bob Gibson’s dominance was one of the reasons the pitching mound was lowered from fifteen inches down to ten after the 1968 season and where it remains today. Gibson was also known for his competitive nature, which included a willingness to throw at opposing batters.

What follows is from a transcript of a twenty-four-minute radio segment on National Public Radio (NPR)on October 12, 2009, where Dave Davies interviews Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson about their book, Sixty Feet, Six Inches:

Davies: Well, and umpires will throw you out. They will warn both benches, and then when you hit somebody, you get tossed out, which didn’t happen…

Bob Gibson: Oh, I don’t like that. I had a situation; it was in San Diego. Lee Weyer happened to be the umpire. And we got somebody hit on our ball club. And they knew my reputation as retaliating, you know, I wasn’t – I’m not trying to hurt anybody. I’m only going to hit him. And after the inning – the half-inning was over, and I’m walking to the mound. Lee Weyer was walking along with me. Now, Bobby…

Dave Davies: Said the umpire…

Bob Gibson: Now, Bobby, if you hit somebody, it’s going to cost you $50. It’s going to cost you $50. And I said Lee – and at the time I was making good money – I said, Lee, I have a whole bunch of fifties, so you start adding them up.

Joe Leonard Morgan (September 19, 1943 – October 11, 2020)

Joe Morgan played from 1963-1984. During his career, he played for Houston, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Oakland. Morgon made his MLB debut in 1963 when he was only nineteen years old. He would finish his career at the age of forty. I had forgotten just how good Joe Morgan was over the course of his career. There are only twenty second-basemen in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and you could argue that Morgan was the best of all of them. During his era, second basemen were great defenders who didn’t hit very well and batted seventh or eighth in the lineup. Joe Morgan did everything well. He won five consecutive gold gloves. When he stole bases, Morgon did it at a high success rate. His career stolen-base percentage was eighty-one percent, and he stole six hundred and eighty-nine bases. He won back to back MVP awards in 1975 and 1976, which were also years he led the Cincinnati Reds to World Series Championships. Remarkable when you consider that Joe Morgan was only 5’7” and weighed 160 pounds. I remember him most for his time as an analyst with Jon Miller on Sunday Night Baseball for ESPN, which he did for twenty-one years. His insights into individual players were a great match with Jon Miller’s play by play commentary in a time when baseball wasn’t so statistically focused.

 

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