Sunday, November 15, 2015

Meet the Brewers #16: John Morris

The final player that Dave Bristol used on the first Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day in 1970 was John Morris. Morris came into the game in the top of the 8th inning with the score standing at 11-0.  He promptly allowed a double to Jim Fregosi, who then took third on an error by rightfielder Steve Hovley. Shortly after that, Morris uncorked a wild pitch to allow Fregosi to score.

Morris settled down after that initial double (and the walk to the next batter, Bill Voss). He induced Jay Johnstone to ground into a double play and struck out Jim Spencer to close out the 8th.  Morris then cruised through a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers

Same card, just autographed. It was autographed when I bought it.
Like a few of his fellow 1970 Brewers, Morris appeared with the Seattle Pilots for a few games in 1969. He was signed initially by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1960 out of high school. He kicked around Philadelphia's minor league system -- appearing everywhere from low-D Johnson City in the Appalachian League to Elmira, Des Moines, Magic Valley, Chattanooga, Arkansas, and San Diego before finally making the major leagues in 1966 for 13 games.  The Phillies were not impressed, apparently, as they did not pitch him in the majors in 1967 and then sent him to the Baltimore Orioles as the PTBNL for Dick Hall.

The Orioles gave Morris a 19-game shot in 1968, and he put up surface stats that looked good -- 2-0, 2.56 ERA, 6.3 K/9 -- was only in 31-2/3 innings and, more worryingly, he walked 4.8 per nine innings.  The Orioles deemed him surplus to requirements and left him unprotected in the 1969 expansion draft, where he was not selected until pick 52 (out of 60 total) by the Pilots. Morris was not exactly a major part of that team either -- he gets mentioned in Ball Four only for when he gets sent down at the end of spring training and, then, immediately called back up when Bill Henry retired a couple of days later.

1971 Topps #721
Morris's time in Milwaukee -- including the 6 games in 1969 with the Pilots -- comprised over half of his time in the major leagues. Still, it was a time of unfulfilled promise. Only 27 at the start of the 1970 season, he pitched out of the bullpen for the first month. He was not happy as a relief pitcher because, as he said after his second start, "it called for too much concentration. A relief pitcher has to always have pinpoint control to be effective, and I knew I didn't always have it."

But, just as he started pitching in the rotation and looking like he might provide a good lefty option, he started to struggle with his stamina and his health. Next thing you know, he's being treated for a kidney ailment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He spent a month there as the doctors figured out what the problem was and treated it, but he did not make his return to the mound in Milwaukee until after the September roster expansion

1971 was not much better for Morris healthwise. He was penciled in to be the only lefty in the starting rotation, but elbow pain shut him down in spring training -- a bone spur.  The newspaper story about his elbow mentions that he was going to see a "specialist in Los Angeles" -- wonder if that was Dr. Frank Jobe? At any rate, that was 3 years before Tommy John underwent the ligament transplant surgery that now bears his name (and I'm guessing that Morris may have had the early stages of the type of elbow trouble that leads to UCL tears), so Morris rehabbed and came back in mid-May as a reliever, starting just one game and even saving a game.

1994 Miller Brewing Milwaukee Brewers
At the end of 1971, Morris was traded to the San Francisco Giants. The trade made big news in Milwaukee for a trivial reason that says a lot about the early days of the Brewers. When he was traded on October 20, 1971, Morris was the final remaining member of the Brewers 1970 Opening Day team and one of just two men from the Seattle Pilots expansion draft still in the organization at that point -- Skip Lockwood, who was in the minors at the start of the 1970 season, was the other.  

Despite a career that featured 132 appearances over 8 different seasons, Morris only has 8 entries at the Trading Card Database (and one of those -- the Miller Brewing set -- was added this morning after I asked for it to be added!).  I have the four shown here (I count autographs as separate items), and I am missing only his 1970 Mike Andersen Postcard, his 1971 Dell Today's Team Stamp, and his 1971 O-Pee-Chee card.

1 comment:

  1. I just assume any arm injury back then would be Tommy John surgery now.

    Love these posts Tony!