Joe Morgan Dead, Key Member Of Cincinnati's 'Big Red Machine' Passes Away At 77

Joe Morgan, the Baseball Hall of Fame second baseman who was for the better part of a decade a key cog in the Cincinnati Reds' Big Red Machine, has passed away at the age of 77, the Associated Press reported. He joins Whitey Ford, Al Kaline, and Lou Brock, among others, in the ranks of baseball greats who have died in 2020.

Family spokesman James Davis confirmed that Morgan passed away at his home Sunday in Danville, California, on Sunday. He had been suffering from a nerve condition -- a form of polyneuropathy.

He Was Born September 19, 1943

joe morgan baseball card
Wikimedia Commons

Joe Leonard Morgan was born September 19, 1943, in Bonham, Texas, as the oldest of six children. As Encyclopedia.com noted, he wrote in his autobiography that he never experienced racial discrimination even though was born in the height of the Jim Crow era in a segregated section of town. He described his family as tight-knit and supportive.

By his early teens, his family had moved to California in search of a better life. At that time, Morgan was playing ball in both the Babe Ruth league and later, through his high school years.

"I was known as a good, little player—with emphasis on the second of the two adjectives," he wrote.

Early in his career, Morgan struggled at the plate because he held his back elbow too low. After having joined the Houston Colt.45s, teammate Nellie Fox worked on his swing with his fellow second baseman, suggesting that he flap his arm like a chicken to keep his elbow up. The motion would later become his signature.

He Was A Key Part Of The 'Big Red Machine'

joe morgan at bat
Wikimedia Commons | John VanderHaagen

After spending 10 seasons with the Houston team, which would later change its name to the Astros, Morgan was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a blockbuster deal that would go down in Queen City sports history as quite possibly its best trade ever.

Morgan, along with teammates Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Pérez, and Dave Concepción, became a part of what was known as "The Big Red Machine," a nickname for the team that dominated the National League during the 1970s.

During his decade in Cincinnati, Morgan made eight consecutive All-Star Game appearances (1972–79), drove in Ken Griffey for the winning run in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, won the NL MVP Award in consecutive seasons (1975-1976), and won the Gold Glove at second base for five consecutive seasons (1973-1977).

In 1980, he rejoined his old Houston team. He would spend the next four years as a capable player, but his best days were behind him. His last MLB game was in September 1984.

He Later Became A Broadcaster

joe morgan with the reds
Getty Images | Andy Lyons

Like a lot of baseball greats, Morgan would follow up his career on the field with one in the broadcast booth. Over the next couple of decades, he would hold a variety of jobs calling plays and providing color commentary, including stints with the Reds, the San Francisco Giants, CBS Sports, ABC Sports, and ESPN, among others.

His tenure as a broadcaster contrasted sharply with that of his playing years. As Slate reported, Fox announcer Tim McCarver called him "the worst color commentator in the history of the world, in any sport."

He Was Married Twice And Had Four Children

Joe Morgan (third from left) poses with fellow Cincinnati Reds legends Pete Rose, Barry Larkin, and Johnny Bench.
Getty Images | Elsa

Morgan married Gloria Stewart, his high school girlfriend, on April 3, 1967. They had two children and later divorced. His second marriage was to Theresa Behymer, with whom he had twins.