Famed poet Maya Angelou didn’t have Joe Morgan in mind when she wrote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Yet, Angelou’s declaration explains why Morgan’s two-year tenure with the Giants, as brief as it was, remains significant. He dealt San Francisco’s rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, a historic blow that gave the Giants and their fans a feeling of enduring joy.
Morgan’s tie-breaking three-run homer off Terry Forster in the seventh inning of the Giants' 1982 regular-season finale propelled them to a 5-3 win over the Dodgers and dashed Los Angeles’ hopes of wresting the National League West title from Atlanta. It was among many feats celebrated by Morgan’s fans on Monday, one day after the Hall of Fame second baseman died of non-specified polyneuropathy.
The totals that Morgan accumulated from 1981-82 with San Francisco (.270/.388/.414) pale alongside his Reds numbers. But his homer off Forster filled Giants fans with a joy that seemed mostly foreign to them until their World Series-winning binge of 2010, '12 and '14.
Morgan’s homer made Giants fans feel triumphant. Losing to the Dodgers in the series’ first two games evaporated San Francisco’s postseason hopes. But this decision enabled the Giants and their fans to enter the offseason with their pride intact.
“I think we realize that if Giants fans don’t have anybody to root for, they have one real team to root against,” said broadcaster Duane Kuiper, who shared second-base duties with Morgan in San Francisco.
Morgan made witnesses feel privileged. Players and fans knew that they were watching a truly great performer, possibly the best ever at his position, demonstrate the greatness that separated him from others.
Morgan’s competence made the Giants, who had not reached the postseason since 1971 and wouldn’t do so until '87, feel relevant.
“You need to prepare, you need to concentrate and you need to think about what would happen before it happened,” Kuiper said, enumerating the lessons Morgan taught him. “And you needed to play a little pissed off.”
Morgan helped the Giants, who went 207-279 over the three years after he left, feel like winners.
“It meant a lot to know Joe,” said former Giants right-hander Bill Laskey, who flourished as a rookie in 1982 with a 13-12 record. “There were leaders in that clubhouse: Jack Clark, Reggie Smith, Darrell Evans. And then you had Frank Robinson as manager. But Joe was the type of guy who when he spoke, you listened.”
Morgan’s ability to explain baseball was particularly obvious during his stint as a play-by-play announcer and commentator on Giants telecasts in the mid-1980s through early ‘90s.
Said Kuiper, “Joe knew the game so well, he could show up five minutes before the game and be really good.”