Morris in awe of baseball’s ‘Holy Grail’
No COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — longer the emotional wreck he was on that special day in December, Jack Morris settled into a director’s chair inside the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Plaque Gallery, a satisfied smile creasing his face.
“You walk into this room and it’s like the Holy Grail,” Morris said Tuesday after touring baseball’s shrine for the first time in preparation for his induction this summer. “It’s what baseball dreams are made of for every kid. Now, I get to be a part of that group. It’s overwhelming.
The long wait for the 62-year-old Morris ended in December when he and former Detroit Tigers teammate Alan Trammell were selected for induction by a committee that considered older players and executives. They will be enshrined July 29 along with Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman, who were elected in January by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
“I began to wonder, but I never gave up hope,” said Morris, who was accompanied by his wife, Jennifer, and 13-year-old son Miles. “Quite honestly, I realized early on that my best chance might be on the veterans committee, even though the history prior to ... this year wasn’t all that positive. It worked out.”
The road to Cooperstown for Morris was like few others. He retired after the 1994 season and appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2000. Year after year he slowly rose in the voting, receiving around 20 percent of the ballots in the early years up to 67.7 percent in 2013, 42 votes shy of the required 75 percent. That total decreased slightly the next year, his final time to be considered by the writers, and confounded Morris.
“It was a learning experience,” he said. “The most frustrating thing for me — I got back-to-back-to-back phone calls from some writers and one year they’d say, ‘Well, I voted for you this year.’ And the next year they’d say, ‘I didn’t vote for you this year.’ And I asked them, did I lose some games? Was there something that happened that I’m not aware of ? ‘No, I just didn’t think you were as good as the guys that were brought in.’ OK.
“You can’t control any of that . ... Now I’m here and it doesn’t seem to matter how I got here. I’m finally here.”
Morris played 14 years for the Tigers, two for Toronto, and one each for Cleveland and Minnesota, his home state. The right-hander made 527 starts in his 18 seasons, finishing with a record of 254186 and an ERA of 3.90, the highest of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame, and pitched 3,824 innings with 2,478 strikeouts.
Perhaps most importantly, at least for a guy who took pride in his toughness on the mound, Morris registered 175 complete games.
“I was torn between oldschool technology and the modern metrics, and modern metrics weren’t favorable to me,” said Morris, a member of four World Series champions. “When I came up, the starting pitcher’s job was to win the game, number one, and finish the game, number two. I was kind of the last of a dying breed — old school baseball, finish the game.”
Pitcher Jack Morris visited the Hall of Fame on Tuesday.