COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- It's been more than two months since Jack Morris was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee, yet as he walked through the historic building for the first time on Tuesday, the reality of it all seemed to finally set in."You
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- It's been more than two months since Jack Morris was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee, yet as he walked through the historic building for the first time on Tuesday, the reality of it all seemed to finally set in.
"You walk into this room, it's like the Holy Grail," Morris said, sitting in the middle of the Plaque Gallery. "It's what baseball dreams are made of for every kid. Now I get to be a part of the group. It's overwhelming."
Morris -- accompanied by his wife, Jennifer, and their 13-year-old son, Miles -- was given a private two-hour tour of the Hall of Fame on Tuesday morning, getting a first-hand look at the game's great history.
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The 62-year-old marveled at the evolution of the baseball, uniforms and just about everything else involved with the game, pointing out his teammates, opponents -- and even a few pieces of his own memorabilia -- to his son as they walked through the Hall.
Upon seeing a bat used by Honus Wagner, Morris commented, "It's a log."
As different as the bat sizes were from Wagner's playing days to Morris' own, he quickly noted that the spikes worn by players more than 100 years ago weren't all that dissimilar to the ones he used when he broke into the league in the late-1970s.
Morris, who won 254 games during his 18-year career, delivered several one-liners and observations along the way.
On Ty Cobb's unorthodox batting stance: "He was probably like [Paul] Molitor. His hands were so quick, he could do anything at the plate."
On the excessive pine tar that appeared to stain one of Babe Ruth's bats: "[George] Brett would be envious."
On Ruth's swing: "Modern hitting coaches would look at his stance, his approach and his swing and say, 'He couldn't hit.'"
On Christy Mathewson: "Christy looks like a pitcher. He's got the frame; he looks like [Stephen] Strasburg."
On Bucky Dent's classic home run at Fenway Park, Morris explained to his son: "With this swing, he got a new nickname."
On Ozzie Smith's trademark backflip: "I used to tell Tram [Alan Trammell], 'If you'd have only done that early in your career, you'd have been in [the Hall of Fame] on the first round.'"
Morris saved his best material for the Cy Young exhibit, which made note of Young's 511 victories, 7,356 innings pitched and 749 complete games, all unbreakable Major League records.
"He just finished everything he started," Morris said. "There were no relievers back then. They're overrated."
Informed that Young was not elected to the Hall in his first appearance on the ballot, Morris quipped with a chuckle, "That's good; controversy. I'm sure his SABR numbers weren't good enough."
Having already seen his own 1984 Tigers cap in an earlier display, Morris came upon a tablet playing a video clip from his memorable Game 7 performance in the 1991 World Series. On a big screen to the left was Kirby Puckett's game-winning home run in Game 6, prompting tour guide Erik Strohl -- the Hall's vice president of exhibitions and collections -- to ask Morris if he remembered what went through his mind as the Twins forced a decisive Game 7 against the Braves.
"It's over," Morris said. "[The Braves] should have won that game, because they had no chance tomorrow."
Morris outdueled fellow Hall of Famer John Smoltz in Game 7, throwing all 10 innings in Minnesota's 1-0 victory.
"It's flattering," Morris said of seeing his own mementos in the Hall. "I sometimes wonder, 'How does that work? How do I fit into this?' There were some moments -- and I recognize them -- as being as special in baseball history as any. Obviously, '91 World Series Game 7 is the crowning achievement in my career."
Morris was surprised to learn he is the first pitcher in the Hall to earn World Series rings with three teams. While looking at the display of championship rings through the years, Morris revealed that he designed the Blue Jays' rings in 1992-93, though he said he "very rarely" wears any of them.
"I plan on wearing the one I'm getting," he said, referring to his Hall of Fame ring.
At the end of the tour, Morris and his family were brought downstairs into the Hall's archive room, where four tables filled with different memorabilia not currently on display awaited them.
There was a ball used in 1876, the first year of the National League; a ball signed in 1921 by Ruth and President Calvin Coolidge, among others; Al Kaline's glove and Kirk Gibson's helmet, which Morris noted must have been one of 50 his teammate wore every season.
"He was a maniac," Morris said. "He threw more helmets -- and broke more helmets -- than anyone in the history of the game."
Morris then picked up the cap that Sparky Anderson -- his former manager -- wore during his 2,000th managerial victory.
"He was my favorite; he was the best," Morris said. "The three people I'm going to miss having at induction are him, Harmon [Killebrew] and Puck [Puckett]."
A jersey worn by former teammate Lou Whitaker got Morris thinking about the fact that he's being inducted with Trammell, another former Tigers teammate.
"That's what makes it special," Morris said, thinking back to their time coming up through the Minors together. "We were kids; raw kids. You go from 'What are we doing here?' to world champions."
Morris showed his son a ball from his 1984 no-hitter, which he donated to the Hall of Fame several years ago. Looking at team baseballs signed by the 1991 Twins and '92 Blue Jays, Morris -- who always took pride in his signature -- noted the sloppy penmanship of many of his former teammates.
"I've got to go back and tell most of these guys to learn how to write," Morris said.
After checking out two other baseballs -- one signed by William Howard Taft to Walter Johnson after Taft became the first U.S. President to throw a ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day in 1910 at Washington's Griffith Stadium, and another delivered by Cy Young for the first pitch of the first World Series in '03 -- Morris was handed a bat used by former Tigers teammate Larry Herndon.
Little did Strohl know that Morris had just recently called Herndon to invite him to the induction ceremony this summer.
"I'll have to tell him; he'll be so impressed," Morris said of the bat's inclusion on his tour. "One of the best teammates I ever had."
Then came the grand finale: bats used by Ted Williams and Ruth, the latter of which seemed to be of particular fascination to Morris' son, Miles.
"It's like holding a Stradivarius violin," Morris said.
At the conclusion of their private tour, Morris and his family were ushered into the gallery where his plaque will be hung this summer. Morris made his way through the room, checking out the plaques of those that have been inducted before him.
"I'm going to have to spend a little time in here down the road," he said.
Morris posed for photos with the plaques of Kaline, Bob Gibson and others before spotting the wall dedicated to those elected from 1989-95, saying, "Now we're getting to all of my buddies."
After taking pictures with the plaques of Brett and Robin Yount -- two of the committee members that voted him in last December -- Morris stopped to see the plaques of the five-man inaugural class of 1936: Ruth, Johnson, Cobb, Mathewson and Wagner.
As Morris made his way to the end of the wall, the blank spots reserved for future inductees glared back at him. One of them was framed, a photo of Morris pitching for the Tigers with the words "INDUCTION * JULY 29, 2018 #HOFWKND" printed at the bottom.
"I don't know what to think or say," Morris said, seemingly overwhelmed by the sight. "It's hard to put words around it right now."
Fortunately for him, he has more than five months to come up with them.