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MLB Hall Of Famer Joe Morgan Dies At 77

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan has died. Morgan was one of the greatest second baseman in the history of the game and a pioneer in the broadcast booth. NPR's Joel Rose has this remembrance.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Joe Morgan was a spark plug in the Big Red Machine, the Cincinnati team that dominated the 1970s and won two championships. On a team with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez, Morgan won the league MVP twice. And in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, he drove in the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: And the Reds have the lead 4-3 as Joe Morgan blooped a base hit into center field.

ROSE: But at his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Joe Morgan talked about a different game-winning hit much earlier in his career, when he was just breaking into the big leagues as a teenager.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE MORGAN: The manager of the Phillies was so mad that when he went in the clubhouse, he yelled at his players and told them, you guys got beat by a guy that looks like a Little Leaguer.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Well, he was right.

ROSE: At 5 foot 7, a lot of scouts thought Joe Morgan was too short, but he proved them wrong for 22 seasons. Morgan always found a way to help his teams win with home runs, stolen bases, walks, defense and hustle plays.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MORGAN: See; for me, the game has never been about numbers. It's only been about winning.

ROSE: Morgan's career began when there were few Black players in the major leagues, and he wrote candidly about the racism he faced as a young player, especially in the South. After he retired as a player, Morgan had a second path-breaking career as a broadcaster.

JON MILLER: He was smart. He was pugnacious. He had a great knowledge of the game.

ROSE: Jon Miller was Morgan's partner in the broadcast booth at ESPN. They worked Sunday night games together for more than two decades.

MILLER: He was a pioneer - an African American baseball commentator on national television in prime time - and, in that way, a trailblazer.

ROSE: Morgan died Sunday at his home in Danville, Calif., after suffering from a nerve condition. He was 77 years old. Joel Rose, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.