When I was a kid, there was always a vacant lot next door. In fact, I had a vacant lot next door to me until I was 27 and bought a house. That meant that a little boy that liked baseball spent a lot of time mowing those vacant lots so he'd have a place to play baseball. I usually didn't have neighbors that played baseball, so I spent a lot of time by myself. I'd throw up the ball, hit it and then use my imagination to fill in the gaps on what happened based on where the ball went. Of course, I'd run through actual lineups, meaning I had to learn to bat left-handed. It also meant that I had to learn batting stances.
Bobby Tolan and Carl Yastrzemski held the bat very high. Roy White started his hands down below his waist when batting left-handed. Willie Stargell whipped his bat around several times.
But there was no more distinctive batting stance than Joe Morgan's chicken wing. I suppose it must have been a timing trigger. But to see a guy standing there pulling his elbow up to his body....I don't know. I know as a 9 year old I thought I'd broken a rib once when I pulled it too far and too quickly.
Morgan gets card number 132. How's that for respect for a future Hall of Famer? And it's not like this is an early card. He was going into his 10th season in the big leagues. But he was a lifetime .263 hitter and his 162 game average was a thoroughly unimpressive 12 HR, 51 RBI with 36 SB and OPS+ of 121. The Cincinnati years (1972-1979) were much better: 162 game average of 22 HR, 86 RBI, 57 SB, .287 average, OPS+ of 147 and 2 MVP awards.
Needless to say, in the 60's, he was seen as just another really good second baseman, but in the 70's, he got better (power increased and strikeout rate decreased) and he was seen as the best second baseman of the decade. What happened? My best supposition could be that he got different coaching when he got to the Reds, but how many 10 year veterans really change much based on what coaching they get? More likely he's hitting 3rd, behind Rose and Griffey and ahead of Bench, Perez and Foster, both of which meant he was going to see more fastballs.
I think Morgan gets a bad rap now. His playing career is largely overlooked and he's just seen as some arrogant broadcaster. He's got reason to be arrogant, but the only complaint I have is that he seems to have developed a Tony Gwynn-like addiction to doughnuts. It's hard to look at either Gwynn or Morgan and believe they stole 50 bases.
There's a bonus player standing in the distance behind Morgan. This is a 1971 regular season shot, rather than a spring training photo. That's Astro catcher Johnny Edwards. The only other possibility is that this is in Cincinnati and that's Red backup catcher Pat Corrales, because the Astro and Red uniforms from a distance were similar. Still, I'm going with Edwards.
Player Profile: Jose Abreu
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