Votto on Morgan: 'He could do everything'

Reds hold Joe Morgan Day to honor Hall of Fame second baseman

August 8th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- Reds first baseman didn’t get to see Hall of Fame second baseman play. But Votto deeply understood what it was like to have Morgan in his corner supporting him.

“We’ve always had an influx of great players come through the clubhouse, all clubhouses -- road, home -- you get to see amazing players. I’ve met tons,” Votto said. “Joe, far and away, was the best, to interact with, to say hello to, to catch up with, to talk ball, to get feedback from. He was very helpful.”

Morgan died in October from cancer at the age of 77 and the Reds fittingly used Sunday -- 8-8-21 on the calendar for the player who has his No. 8 retired by the club -- to hold Joe Morgan Day at Great American Ball Park before they played the Pirates.

A member of the Big Red Machine, Morgan was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in both 1975 and ’76 -- the years that dynasty won the World Series. Votto was the 2010 NL MVP and was having another strong season in '12.

One day during that year, Votto saw Morgan.

“About halfway through the season, I was performing at that level, and I said, ‘I’m going to catch ya. I’m going to get two,’” Votto recalled. “And he said, ‘I hope so. I hope you win three.’ Then we just talked. He was just such a treat to be around. I only got to know him so well. But of what I got to know, he was a really good man. I’ve heard that from lots of different people. This weekend, I think it makes sense to celebrate such an iconic Reds player.”

The Reds held pregame ceremonies to remember Morgan that featured fellow Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Barry Larkin, with attendees that included iconic broadcasters Marty Brennaman and Bob Costas. The Baseball Hall of Fame -- including president Jeff Idelson and board of directors chairperson Jane Forbes Clark -- brought Morgan’s plaque from Cooperstown, N.Y., to be on display at the ballpark’s main gate. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley proclaimed Sunday as Joe Morgan Day in the city as well.

Members of Morgan’s family delivered the game ball and threw a ceremonial first pitch. The Reds also put a No. 8 in the dirt behind second base for the game.

Morgan was a 10-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman for five teams, primarily the Reds and Astros, over 22 seasons from 1963-84. He batted .271/.392/.427 with 268 home runs, 1,133 RBIs, 689 steals and 1,650 runs. From 1972-79, all with the Reds, Morgan went to eight straight All-Star Games.

He also enjoyed a second career as a national television broadcaster for NBC and ESPN.

“Joe is the greatest second baseman of all time,” Votto said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a better player to put on the Reds uniform. He could do everything. He was the best hitter on the team. He was the best baserunner on the team. He was a Gold Glove defender. He played second base, a premium position. Most importantly, he was loved by his teammates. I think you could ask -- when Sparky [Anderson] was alive -- I think he believed he thought Joe was the best player on the team and the most important player of the team.”

Like Morgan, Votto’s name is a fixture among numerous Reds all-time lists for offensive statistics. But after a dip in production in previous seasons, Votto is enjoying a renaissance season at the age of 37.

Votto believed that Morgan would have enjoyed watching his resurgence.

“We actually had conversations about the experience of playing as you get older. He said that he went through a little bit of a rough patch and then seemed to find something in his swing and something in his game as he got older,” Votto said. “He gives off the vibe like, ‘More. Go get more. Don’t stop. Keep going. There’s more. Way to go, I’m proud of you.’ But great, great athletes are very greedy. Like very, very greedy. That’s the thing I loved most about him. He gave off that vibe like, ‘You’re doing great but keep going. Always assume there is more.’ I feed off of that.

“That is something I miss from interacting with Joe Morgan. I think he would have been proud. He would have been frustrated watching me play and seeing a bit of a cold stretch. But he also would have been proud of a comeback.”