Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins

Hall of Famer Jack Morris came to define ‘workhorse’ pitcher

Jack Morris, the pitcher who won the most games in the 1980s, goes into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday after an 18-year career.

They don’t make pitchers like Jack Morris anymore.

Over an 18-year career Morris defined the term “workhorse.” Ten times he pitched more than 250 innings in a season. In today’s age of specialist relievers and quick hooks, no one has done that even once since 2014. Morris started 527 games, and completed 175 of them.

That mentality, a refusal to give up the ball on days he started, is a big part of the reason Morris is going into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

It wasn’t an easy road for Morris. For 15 years he appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot and came up short every time. In 2013 he got within 42 votes of induction. Finally, in December he was voted in by the Veteran’s Committee alongside former Detroit Tigers teammate Alan Trammell.

Drafted by the Tigers in 1976, the same year as Trammell, Morris made his Major League debut in 1977. He pitched for the Tigers for the next 14 seasons, winning 198 games. He was the opening day starter for 14 straight years, a Major League record. In the 1980s he started the most games, had the most wins, and, not surprisingly, the most complete games of any pitcher. He credits his Tigers manager, Sparky Anderson, with instilling that workhorse mentality in him.

“He told me I had the makeup to do it and he needed me to do it,” Morris said upon his election in December. “He basically said he wasn’t coming out to get me and I had to finish my own stuff and figure out how to win these games.”

Morris once sent Anderson back to the dugout when the manager came to take him out of a game. If he started the game, he wanted to finish it.

Morris finished his career with a 254-186 record and a 3.90 ERA. While he never won the Cy Young Award, he did finish in the top-five in voting five times. A five-time All-Star, he won four World Series with three different teams. The first of these championship years came with the Tigers in 1984. That year he pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox in the fourth game of the season as the Tigers started 35-5 on their way to the title.

Following the 1990 season, Morris decided to make the jump to his hometown Minnesota Twins. What would be his last start as a Twin turned out to be the pinnacle of his career. In Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Morris pitched a 10-inning, seven-hit shutout against the Atlanta Braves to bring the Twin Cities their last championship.

After bringing a World Series title home to Minnesota, Morris moved on to the Toronto Blue Jays. In 1992 he became the first Blue Jays pitcher to win 20 games in a season and led the team to their first world championship. After winning another title with the Blue Jays in 1993, he finished his career with the Cleveland Indians the next season.

These accomplishments, however, were long overlooked by the baseball writers. Morris’s winding path to Cooperstown made him feel like he would never get in. When the call finally came last December, however, he admits he wasn’t expecting it.

“I had no thoughts that I was going to make it. So when it came, I was shocked,” he said in Cooperstown on Saturday. “I was literally shocked because I had been prepared, like I had been for several years before, to just go through it again. You know, life goes on. I was in a good place.”

His teammate Trammell also went through 15 years on the ballot without making it. Now that they are going in together, the two can share an appreciation of the journey they made together that started back in 1976.

“The one thing that makes it special for us is the fact that we’re older, and we can put it into perspective that a lot of the younger guys can’t,” he said.

It was a long journey for Morris, but at the end of the path is a bronze plaque that will forever remain in Cooperstown.

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