Mor­ris in awe of base­ball’s ‘Holy Grail’

The Palm Beach Post - - SPORTS EXTRA -

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — No 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.

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