The story of Jack Morris is one of grit and perseverance. Seen today as the grizzled veteran, one doesn’t think of flash or his being the best pitcher of his era, but of steel nerves and the ability to rise in the most crucial of moments. Should he be immortalized forever. Remember, this is the Hall of Really Good, not the Hall of Pretty Good. While the Hall of Losers in Upstate New York has decided that he doesn’t meet their standards, we feel that he is a wonderful fit for our own, and are happy to present our argument:
Now while that Hall run by a bunch of buttholes in Upstate New York will tell you he didn’t make the grade, we beg to differ. 15 times they voted on the guy, and 15 times they said no. But let me take you back to October 27th, 1991. The first inning of game 7 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves.
Jack Morris faced the lead off hitter, a 15-year veteran in Lonnie Smith, with a .377 on base percentage. Morris immediately gets into trouble with a first pitch ball. It might have been easy for him to pack it in that day and admit defeat, but ol’ Jack knows better than that. The day is far from lost. He roars back with a strike, and eventually proceeds to get the cocky batsmith to weakly pop out to shallow right field. One out. 27 to go. Or so Jack thought.
Next up was the power hitting third baseman, Terry Pendleton, who had hit 22 home runs during the course of the season, and had sent a ball on a very long journey not one night before in Game 6. Surely he might provide more of an effort. Sadly for the Braves, but goodly for the Twins, he could not, meekly grounding out to the first baseman.
Would the even mightier Ron Gant, of his 32 long balls be the answer to the riddle that was Jack Morris? No my friend, you will not. Not with your swinging strikeout.
Of course the other hall would have you believe that he should be shamed for his lifetime ERA of .390, which would have been worse than any of the pitchers that they had deemed worthy. But let me take you back to October 27th, 1991. The second inning of game 7 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves.
That first inning had been a breeze. But being perfect was so first inning, and Morris was about to find out that David Justice was none to be trifled with, as he sent the first pitch of the inning into centerfield, out of the reach of Kirby Puckett for a leadoff single.
A Sid Bream liner to the second baseman would have meant a double play, but Justice had been one step ahead, running on the pitch, and managed to sneak into scoring position on the out. Jack had gotten cocky. He would not repeat the mistake. Instead Brian Hunter got a big bowl of strikeout, and Greg Olson washed it down with a dirty infield fly out. David Justice could eat shit on second base. Jack Morris and the Twins were back in business.
Not satisfied with that, the baseball nerds would nerd things up by pointing out that his ERA+ of 105 would have been the third worst in their collection, and far from impressive. Well how was his ERA+ on October 27th, 1991, in the third inning of game 7 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves? Let’s find out.
A little background: After a promising start to the second inning, the Twins were left holding their dicks in their hands, stranding two, and keeping the game scoreless. It would be up to Jack to make sure Atlanta didn’t crack the board first. Leading off was fantastic guy to remember, Mark Lemke, an objectively shitty second baseman, who had magically come to life in the playoffs for a few years. Would this be his moment? Sadly, no. For you see, in playoff baseball, it is kill or be kill, and oh what lovely teeth Jack Morris had. Ground out to second base.
Next up was Rafael Belliard, the number 9 hitter, who had been deemed not quite good enough to go before Mark Lemke, so Jack should be safe here. WRONG JACK. Jesus, did you learn nothing from your second inning collapse? Against all odds the shortstop slapped a single. One wild pitch later and fucking Ronnie Belliard is on second base again and we’ve got ourselves another high stress inning. Great work, Jack. You’re making me look like a dick.
Then Lonnie Smith draws a walk to put runners on first and second. From the outside it would appear that Jack was losing his grip.
Never one to stay rattled for long, Morris induces a pop out from Pendleton, and a force out by Gant. We remain scoreless. Jack comes away from the scare, unbroken.
One of the rallying cries for Jack Morris is that he pitches to the scoreboard, as God intended. Not one of those flashy stat boys who tries to shave his ERA down in a blowout. Of course the nerds will tell you that he gave up the lead in 25% of his games. Well…that’s not great. But you know what is great?
October 27th, 1991. The fourth inning of game 7 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves.
The inning had started with the man who had started all that trouble in the second. David Justice. Would history repeat itself? No. Justice was served a four pitch strikeout. Sid Bream quickly followed him into the dugout with a one pitch fly out to left field. Brian Hunter then slaps a two out double, because absolutely nothing can come easily for Jack Morris. Thus begins an epic battle with Greg Olson, who sends blood pressure rising with a sharp line drive that just so happens to cruise into the right fielders glove. Almost as if Jack Morris had engineered it so.
Of course, never being satisfied, those losers in their mothers basement up in Cooperstown like to trot out that his 2,748 career strikeouts are only 34th most in MLB history. But what about on the night of October 27th, 1991, during the fifth inning of game 7 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves?
The situation was rife with tension. Though Jack had been the picture of effectiveness, his losers on offense had yet to break that scoreless tie. Things were beginning to get desperate for both sides. Locked in an eternal scoreless struggle, the Braves catch lightning in a bottle with a Lemke single. The sacrifice bunt him to second base. Then those chiselers the Braves, knowing they can’t expect to win straight up, decide for a sneak attack second bunt in a row. The off target throw puts runners on the corners. Does this bother Jack? This does not bother Jack. One more shallow popup and strikeout later, the game remains tied at 0 going into the sixth.
Now, if you really wanted to be annoying you’d point out that his 3,824 innings pitches only ranks 50th all time. But how was he doing six innings into his start on October 27th, 1991, in game 7 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves?
Nobody would have blamed the man for settling into a deep rooted panic. They had not brought about a run through five innings, and it was starting to look as though they never might. Smoltz had escaped danger time and again, and Morris knew he would need to conserve his energy if he had a chance. Two quick grounders to the first baseman, and a fly out to center, and he had escaped the danger. But would anybody bring about a run?
Still unimpressed the pricks at the other Hall like to mention Jack’s WHIP. And yeah, okay, a WHIP of 1.2963 isn’t exactly very good, alright? It’s bad. But you know what, nobody cares about WHIP when you’re WHIPPING the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the World Series, back on October 27th, 1991. Let’s go to the tape.
Six innings come and six innings gone, and still nobody has managed to score. You can’t beat perfection, but you can try to outlive it. At this point the announcers are trying to see how many sexual euphemisms they can sneak on air. “Olson’s in the hole and this is tight, tight, tight.” Morris, being all about business, immediately sent Greg Olson down swinging. In over his depth, Lemke flies out to center. Another strikeout for Belliard. What a fricking man.
While others would embarrass themselves by bringing up his WAR of 44.1 (or 43, or 39, because different sites have different formulas) has already been passed by the 25 year old Mike Trout. Good for Mike Trout. But what did Mike Trout do on October 27th, 1991, during the eighth inning of game 7 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves? Fucking nothing, that’s what. But Jack Morris?
Lonnie starts off the eighth with a lucky hit to short right. Then after roughly a half hour of stalling by tossing back to first base, Morris decides to actually pitch to Pendleton, who hits a deep drive to the wall. A confused Lonnie Smith forgets that he’s allowed to score and stops briefly at second base while Knoblauch mimes a man rolling craps. Thus lies the hypnotic spell of Jack Morris, and though Lonnie has only been confused for a moment, it is a moment too much. Though the Braves would have men on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, Morris would have no problems. After getting a ground out, Morris decided that he hated an uneven field, and walked Justice to load the bases. Double play. Inning over.
Now Jack Morris never finished a year with a sub .300 ERA. Big goddamn whoopee. Let’s take another look at October 27th, 1991, this time during the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves.
The game grinds on. As they start the 9th inning, Morris has no way of knowing whether the Twins will ever score or not. Sure, he had outlasted Smoltz, but the maddening futility of Minnesota’s offense could have cracked even the most seasoned of veterans. But he would not be stopped now. With two groundouts and a strikeout, he had done his job. Had gone nine full innings without giving up a run. By all rights he should be hoisting a trophy right now, but his stupid hitters still hadn’t scored a run. He went to the dugout not knowing if he would return.
Now we get to the biggest embarrassment of that Hall of losers. Mentioning that the man had never won a Cy Young. The guy has multiple World Series wins and the most wins during the 80’s, but we’re worried about the Cy Young, an award named after another man. Well Jack Morris was his own man. We go back to October 27th, 1991, now in the 10th inning of Game 7 against the Atlanta Braves.
He returned. The Twins couldn’t close the deal in regulation, and had to trot Jack Morris back out out there. By God the man had worked a full shift. Win or lose, one thing was certain; Jack Morris was getting time and a half. Immediately he works a pop up. Then a strikeout. His eighth of the night. Then, Pendleton who had hit the ball so mightily two innings ago, hits a weak grounder for the final out of the inning.
They wouldn’t know it then, but Jack had just held off the Braves. The Twins would finally go on to win the damn thing in the bottom half of the 10th. Of course Jack Morris wouldn’t be on the field for the moment, but his legacy was, in our minds, secured. Though the Twins would not retire his number, for what are obviously political reasons, they, and indeed the rest of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Vikings, Northstars, Wild, and even the University of Minnesota, made a pact right there and then to stop winning games that mattered. Jack had already won the biggest they would ever see.
Congratulations on your enshrinement, Jack Morris. You were really good.