Tigers retire Jack Morris' uniform No. 47

August 12th, 2018

DETROIT -- Among the many examples of Jack Morris' fiery competitiveness as a Tiger was his flash of temper when manager Sparky Anderson would walk to the mound to pull Morris from a game, with Morris slamming the ball into his manager's hand before he made the march back to the dugout.

Fitting, then, that the Tigers set up sparklers for Morris' walk from the dugout to the stage behind the mound at Comerica Park on Sunday, when the team celebrated Morris' induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame by retiring his uniform No. 47 prior to the Tigers' 4-2 victory over the Twins.

"Whenever any Tigers fan walks into this stadium and sees that number on the wall, they can explain to whoever they're with the story of the great Jack Morris," Morris' longtime catcher, Lance Parrish, said.

The emotions Morris expressed as he addressed the crowd and several of his teammates Sunday, however, were on the other end of the spectrum.

"It wasn't always easy," he told them. "There were ups and downs. There was a lot of failure, but the desire to succeed was much stronger. That desire came from the support of you fans. I can't thank you enough for what you did for me."

Though no Tiger had worn 47 since Morris left in 1990, something longtime clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel no doubt oversaw, Sunday's ceremony made it official. He became the seventh Tiger to have his number formally retired, and the first since Anderson in 2011.

While a video tribute chronicled his feats, including his status as the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, teammates Parrish and Dan Petry spoke beyond the numbers to what Morris meant for a team that grew up together and won Detroit's most recent World Series title in 1984. Morris and Alan Trammell became the first players from that team to be inducted into the Hall of Fame when the Modern Era Committee elected them last winter.

"I wanted to get on that podium and say, 'Finally somebody is getting recognized as part of that era and as part of that team,'" Parrish said. "We all felt like we had a pretty special group, and obviously we felt that we had some guys that were qualified to be in the Hall of Fame. So, for him to be in there, and for Trammell to be in there, I always felt like Trammell was destined to be in the Hall of Fame anyway. And I always felt like after catching Jack for a couple years, that it was only a matter of time before he got in."

That era included a fair number of workhorse pitchers, but none more than Morris. His 175 complete games are the most for any pitcher since 1975, including seven in a row in his 20-win season of 1983 and six shutouts in his 21-win season of 1986. His 10-inning shutout of the Braves for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series remains one of the best pitching performances in postseason history.

"Jack didn't pitch for a low ERA. He just simply won baseball games," Petry said. "He was just going to find a way to win. There was just no surrender in him."

Though Morris joked that he could talk for an hour and a half, he kept his remarks relatively short, thanking his teammates and especially the fans.

"Detroit means so much to me, and the state of Michigan," he said afterwards. "What Detroit baseball means to this community is beyond words. To know that I was part of a team that helped kindle that love, we're looking for the next round. So, to be there with my teammates meant the world to me. I wouldn't want it any other way. It's meaningless without sharing it. So many fans showed up."

Morris proudly noted that he did not cry during the speech, challenging Tigers manager and former Twins teammate Ron Gardenhire. What followed, however, got him teared up. At the end of the ceremony, the Tigers unveiled Morris' No. 47 on the brick wall, tucked between fellow Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer.

"When they unveiled it out there, I could see [a tear] trickling down," Gardenhire said.

Fittingly, they left plenty of space nearby for Trammell, who will have his number formally retired in two weeks.

"I guess part of me seriously always wondered what it would look like, if it ever happened," Morris said. "It's been a long time coming. I never played at this ballpark, but ever since it was made, and I saw all the other Hall of Famers up there, I thought, 'Jeez, someday, wouldn't that be the neatest?' And now, here it is."

" ... I don't know. I think it'll have more meaning down the road. When I come back, and my grandkids are a little older, and they'll say, 'Grandpa, your number is up there.' It's just going to be cool."