Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, who was integral to the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine era of the 1970s, died on Sunday. He was 77.
The Associated Press reports that he died at his Danville, Calif., home after suffering from a nerve condition, a form of polyneuropathy, for an unspecified period of time.
In 22 seasons of Major League Baseball, he was a 10-time All-Star, won five Gold Gloves and was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1975 and 1976. Little Joe was also a member of the Cincinnati Reds for eight seasons, where he played a pivotal role in helping them win back to back World Series in 1975 and 1976. Known for flapping his left elbow at the plate, Morgan was celebrated for his fearlessness—despite his diminutive five-foot, seven-inch stature—and dynamic play on the field.
In response to the news, many have taken to social media to offer their condolences.
By the time Morgan retired in 1984, he had scored 1,650 runs, stole 689 bases, hit 268 homers and batted .271. But many note that his statistical output doesn’t properly reflect the tremendous impact he had on the field.
“Joe Morgan played on one of the greatest teams ever,” Twitter user BaseballHistoryNut tweeted. “And it really hurts his legacy [in my opinion].”
After his playing days, Morgan became a popular announcer for the Giants, Reds and A’s before graduating into a color commentator for NBC, ABC, CBS and most notably, ESPN.
After the Reds retired his jersey in 1987, and he was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1990, he became a board member of the Hall of Fame and the Baseball Assistance Team.
In recent years, Morgan was beset with health problems. He was forced to use a cane when he took the field prior to the 2015 All-Star Game and later required a bone marrow transplant.
“The Reds family is heartbroken. Joe was a giant in the game and was adored by the fans in this city,” Reds CEO Bob Castellini said in a statement. “He had a lifelong loyalty and dedication to this organization that extended to our current team and front office staff. As a cornerstone on one of the greatest teams in baseball history, his contributions to this franchise will live forever. Our hearts ache for his Big Red Machine teammates.”
“Major League Baseball is deeply saddened by the death of Joe Morgan, one of the best five-tool players our game has ever known and a symbol of all-around excellence,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Joe often reminded baseball fans that the player smallest in stature on the field could be the most impactful.”
“Joe wasn’t just the best second baseman in baseball history,” former teammate Johnny Bench said. “He was the best player I ever saw and one of the best people I’ve ever known.”
Per the Associated Press, Morgan is survived by Theresa, his wife of 30 years; his twin daughters, Kelly and Ashley; and daughters Lisa and Angela from his previous marriage to Gloria Morgan, who he wed in 1967.