day 8: little joe

Today is eight days, which is one week and one day of the omer: hesed she’big’vurah.

Today Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun was a contender because he’s Jewish (and you know, a pretty good ball player), but using PEDs, denying it, attacking the test collector, and only later admitting his use is not #goodfortheJews.

Instead I’m going with Reds second baseman Joe Morgan — and not just because he’s a Texan and originally drafted by the then-Colt 45s (and then played for Houston 1963-1971 and again in 1980).

But since I mentioned it: Morgan is from a little city in northeast Texas called Bonham, named for Battle of the Alamo hero James Bonham, and hometown of U.S. Rep. Sam Rayburn, the longest serving Speaker of the House, namesake of the current D.C. building with House members’ offices, and a Southern Democrat who refused to sign the Southern Manifesto after Brown v. Board of Education. I know y’all aren’t here for a Texas history lesson, but how else am I going to put to use so many years of primary education?

Joe-Morgan-14loNot unlike another diminutive Astros second baseman (hello again, Jose Altuve), Morgan was listed in 1967 as 5’7″ and 150 pounds. Dismissed when he was traded to Cincinnati from Houston in 1971, Morgan had been trained by his baseball-loving father to become a “complete player” — versatile, and good at everything. And he found a match that year in teammate Pete Rose: “They fed off of each other’s brilliance,” writes Joe Posnanski. “Morgan helped Rose be more disciplined.” Historian Bill James has found Morgan to be the most efficient player in baseball history

Since retiring from baseball, Morgan has had a long career in broadcasting. During which time he’s made clear his disinterest in sabermetrics, especially WAR (Wins Above Replacement) — by which measure many analyses have shown that Joe Morgan himself was an unrated player. Posnanski shares,

Bill James tells a great story about how one time Jon Miller showed Morgan Bill’s New Historical Baseball Abstract, which has Morgan ranked as the best second baseman of all time, ahead of Rogers Hornsby. Well, Morgan starts griping that this was ridiculous, that Hornsby hit .358 in his career, and Morgan never hit .358, and so on. And there it was, perfectly aligned—Joe Morgan the announcer arguing against Joe Morgan the player.

With five Golden Glove awards and as a 10-time All-Star, two-time NL MVP, and two-time WS winner, Morgan is a fitting choice for this first day (hesed) of the week of gevruah.

Rabbi Art Green writes about gevurah in Ehyeh, “This is a force that measures and limits love, controlling the flow of hesed in accord with the needs, abilities, and deserts of those who are to receive it.”

For insisting discipline, on clear limits for even his own adulation, tonight we count 8 with the man who lifted Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” to new heights.

featured image, August 27, 1978 (the day after I was born!): Morgan becomes first MLB player to reach 200 HRs and 500 SBs



2 thoughts on “day 8: little joe

  1. I love this. I loved Joe Morgan when he helped get the Phillies to the World Series in 1983 and I loved him as a broadcaster.


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