Jack great, not so good

Morris

Morris

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

Jack Morris has his money, better than $25 million US in salary earned over 18 big-league seasons. He has his signature game, the 10-inning shutout Game 7 he threw to win the Minnesota Twins the World Series in 1991.

He has the distinction of five all-star game appearances and championships with three teams, including the Blue Jays for whom he won 21 games in 1992.

All wonderful achievements. All, written in sand.

In baseball, only one thing lasts. Cooperstown.

And Jack Morris won't be going there unless he buys a ticket.

Today, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce that Jack Morris remains far short of the number required to enter the Hall. Last year, four pitchers -- Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, Lee Smith and Bert Blyleven -- garnered more than Morris' 133 votes.

You can debate whether the Professional Baseball Writers of America, the keepers of Cooperstown, are right or wrong about Morris.

DEFINED THE VALUES

His 254 wins left him 46 shy of the 300 strata that would have triggered weightier consideration. Blyleven won 23 more games, struck out 1,300 more and delivered an ERA six-tenths of a run lower and he's a long shot.

But Morris defined the values baseball used to love.

He hated to come out of ball games.

Once, with the Tigers, he intercepted manager Sparky Anderson before he could cross the foul line for his second visit. "Get the hell out of here," Morris said. "What you've got warming up is no better than what I have here."

Morris stayed in the game and won.

Morris was influenced by his dad Arvid, who had Jack and his brother catching the ball when they were just a few years old. Arvid tied food into how well his two sons played. If they won, supper was steak. If they lost, hamburgers.

Morris walked the first four batters he faced as a big-leaguer with Detroit in 1977. There was no such thing as a pitch count. Then-manager Ralph Houk left him in for nine innings. His arm hurt for 18 months.

It meant more to Morris to finish his games and win 18 of them than to cash in after six innings and win 22. He was superb in big games.

But here's the other thing about Jack Morris. Despite some late effort at image control, the truth is he treated everyone with a universal contempt. Teammates, managers, fans, writers.

If a teammate made an error, Morris would stare him down. When John Smoltz, then an unsure rookie, dared to laugh out loud around him, Morris snarled at him. "Go ahead and laugh kid," Morris said. "You're trying to take our jobs."

"He is, without doubt, one of the nastiest, meanest, most self-centred and highest-strung people I've ever met," said Anderson, who still loved Morris competitive nature.

When owners colluded to restrict player movement and Morris was compelled to return to Detroit, Morris said, without a hint of irony, "Now I know how Jackie Robinson felt."

Morris waited until Buck Martinez was on the air for TSN before interrupting Martinez to tell listeners that Martinez was a lousy ballplayer. When a female reporter asked him for an interview, he said he didn't talk to women while undressed unless, "I'm on top of them or they're on top of me."

If all that mattered was what happened within the foul lines, Pete Rose would be the king of Cooperstown and Jack Morris would have a shot of making it.

But now Morris must depend on the very people he treated so shabbily throughout his career. It is human nature in every endeavour: You are more kindly disposed toward the people who treat you with courtesy and respect.

It is a lesson worth learning for any athlete, parent or kid. The greats, such as Paul Molitor, Ernie Harwell, Dave Winfield, Alan Trammel, are also good people.


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