Reds unveil Morgan's statue before Saturday's game
Hall of Famer becomes sixth team legend immortalized in Crosley Terrace
CINCINNATI -- Joe Morgan has nearly all of the accolades a baseball player could ever dream of receiving.
Regarded as one of the best second basemen of all-time, Morgan was an All-Star in each of his eight seasons in Cincinnati, winning five Gold Gloves during that time. He played for back-to-back World Series championship teams in 1975 and '76, earning National League MVP in each of those seasons. He was also a first-ballot inductee to the Reds Hall of Fame in 1987.
Morgan received the game's highest honor in 1990, as he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after 22 illustrious seasons in the big leagues.
Although Morgan thought at the time -- 23 years ago -- that nothing would compare to the day he entered the Hall of Fame, it didn't come close to what he experienced on Saturday, when he became the sixth former Red to be immortalized outside of Great American Ball Park with a statue.
"Every guy who hits maybe .300, hits 500 home runs or whatever, and steals a lot of bases, he gets in the Hall of Fame. Numbers, that's what puts him there," Morgan said. "Every guy in Cooperstown doesn't have a sculpture at their home field. I'd like to think people here would want me to be remembered for more than a stolen base, for more than getting a hit."
Morgan joined Johnny Bench, Ted Kluszewski, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall and Frank Robinson as the Reds greats honored with a statue at Crosley Terrace. Morgan's likeness was unveiled on Saturday morning in front of a crowd of roughly 3,000 fans, with family and friends also in attendance.
The most important guests on Saturday, though, were the members of the group known as the Great Eight. Along with Morgan and Bench, the Great Eight consisted of Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, Pete Rose, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey Sr. Together, they formed the starting lineup for the 1975 and '76 World Series winners.
After the Reds' 3-2 win against the Dodgers on Friday night, the legends stepped on the field together for the first time since sweeping the Yankees in the 1976 World Series. They gathered once again for the statue unveiling and a ceremony on the field before Saturday's game.
"I can't tell you how much of an honor it is to have these guys here with me," said Morgan. "I don't think a guy could have better teammates."
The weekend's festivities were for Morgan, but he helped turn it into a celebration of the Great Eight. He gave most of the credit for his success with the Reds to his teammates on Saturday, when he joined Bench as the second member of the group honored with a statue.
"I'm just honored personally to receive one," said Morgan. "I know there are plans to honor [some of the other] players up here. It's easy for me to sit up here and say this now because I have a sculpture out there. But years ago, I talked to [former Reds executive] John Allen about something that would depict the entire team -- the Big Red Machine.
"As everyone's telling you here -- and you can see -- we were a team. It's not Johnny Bench and the Big Red Machine. It's the Big Red Machine, and I would love to see something that says these guys were here together."
For now, Morgan will have to settle for his own personal honor. The statue depicts Morgan, who stole 689 career bases -- 406 with the Reds -- breaking out of his stance for a steal. Tom Tsuchiya, who has sculpted each of the statues outside Great American Ball Park, said he struggled to decide how to depict Morgan before eventually settling on a pose.
"You can't really capture Joe 100 percent," Tsuchiya said. "He was so good at so many different things."
In his eight seasons with the Reds, Morgan collected 1,115 hits, connected on 152 homers, scored 816 runs and amassed 612 RBIs. He batted at least .320 in both of his MVP seasons, and is the only Reds second baseman other than Brandon Phillips to drive in 100 runs or more in one season.
During Saturday's ceremony, Morgan thanked his family, the Reds organization and the Cincinnati fans for supporting him and helping him become a Hall of Famer.
Most importantly, he thanked his teammates, who were thrilled to be a part of Joe Morgan Weekend.
"Obviously, we don't get together as much as we'd like to because we're like brothers," said Rose, who Morgan described as his best friend. "But that's what makes this so special."