October 30, 2016

Some second thoughts on former Twins pitcher, Jack Morris

Twenty-five years ago this past week, the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves met in what many have called the greatest World Series of all time. Several of the games were won in the final at bat and Game 7 was no different. Former Twins pitcher Jack Morris blanked the Braves for 10 innings and then the Twins’ Gene Larkin lofted a fly ball over a drawn in outfield in the bottom of the 10th to score the only run in the game.

I have championed Morris as a Hall of Famer ever since and have singled out that Game 7 performance over the years as a worthy example. His lifetime statistics are equally impressive, but after spending 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot Morris fell short of the votes needed for enshrinement. At the time, I thought the baseball writers who didn’t vote for Morris probably were splitting hairs over some of his statistical accomplishments.

Or maybe not. No doubt some writers may hold longtime grudges over some slight to them or their peers — and deservedly so.

I say that after reading Deadspin’s recent piece on sportswriter Jennifer Frey, who passed away in March from “multiple organ failure,” although those who knew her best knew that her longtime battle with the bottle killed her. The story is about Frey’s life, her struggles with alcohol, but also about her gifts as a writer. Frey, too, was a trailblazer for female sportswriters trying to do their jobs, which meant getting access to locker rooms to interview male athletes. Today, of course, no one would think twice about equal access to the locker room, but it became an issue for Frey — even as late as 1990 — while working as a summer intern for the Detroit Free Press. That’s where she encountered Morris during his final year with the Detroit Tigers.

She was at Tiger Stadium before a game and approached Jack Morris in the locker room for an interview. Slightly varying versions of Morris’ exact phrasing were published at the time, but the consensus quote had him telling the intern, “I don’t talk to women when I’m naked unless they’re on top of me or I’m on top of them.”

Bo Schembechler, who was president of the Tigers then after his long run as Michigan’s football coach, attacked Frey and her employer.

“Your sports editor’s lack of common sense in sending a female college intern in a men’s clubhouse caused the problem,” Schembechler wrote. “I really wouldn’t doubt that the whole thing was a scam orchestrated by you people to create a story.”

Schembechler said he wouldn’t let any female member of his family into that locker room “regardless of their job description.”

A year later, while covering the American League Championship Series between the Twins and Blue Jays for the Philadelphia Daily News, Frey ran into Morris again.

“She told me when she ran into Morris, he said, ‘You’re a bitch!’ And she said, ‘You’re an asshole!’” says Chuck Culpepper, a friend of Frey’s since the early 1990s who now writes for the Washington Post. “One of those was true—and she wasn’t a bitch.”

Morris is now a broadcaster with the Minnesota Twins. Team spokesman Dustin Morse said Morris “will not be responding” to Deadspin’s request for comment on his run-ins with Jennifer Frey.

Is Morris Hall of Fame worthy? Yes. Did he deserve the votes to get in? Probably not.

Extra innings…

-I knew the Cleveland Indians had good pitching, but I didn’t know it was that good. After both teams showed off their winning arms in Games 1 and 2 — and a 1-1 tie in the series — the team’s met in Chicago for Game 3 where the Tribe shutout the Cubs for their fifth shutout of the postseason, a new major league record. Cleveland ace Corey Kluber returned to the mound in Game 4 and allowed one earned run over six innings. The Tribe have a 3-1 lead in the series.

-The Indians’ Jason Kipnis hit a three-run home run in Saturday’s game. The last person to hit a three-run jack at Wrigley Field during a World Series? Babe Ruth, 1932.

-The Indians shutout the Cubs 1-0 on Friday. The last person to shutout the cubs at Wrigley Field during a World Series? Babe Ruth, 1918.

-Pitcher Kris Johnson, who essentially had a cup of coffee with the Twins in 2014, became only the second foreign-born pitcher to win Japan’s Sawamura award, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young award. Johnson, who pitches for the Hiroshima Carp, was 15-7 with a 2.15 ERA in 2016.

 

 

 

 

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.