November 24, 1976: On this date, Reds second baseman Joe Morgan wins his second consecutive Most Valuable Player Award.
Joe Morgan had his best professional season in 1976, batting .320 with 27 home runs, 111 runs batted in, 113 runs scored, 30 doubles, 60 stolen bases, 114 walks, and a Gold Glove. He led the majors with a .444 on base percentage, a .575 slugging percentage, a 1.020 OPS, and a 186 OPS+. Traded to the Reds in the 1971 postseason, he improved every year with the Reds from 1972-76 with successive OPS+ ratings of 149, 154, 159, 169, and 186. He finished in the top eight in MVP voting each year from 1972-76, winning twice, finishing fourth twice, and eighth once.
About Morgan’s 1976, baseball writer and sabermetrician Bill James wrote in his book, “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract,” as to why he chose Morgan as the 15th greatest player in baseball history:
“It seems to me that season (1976), as a package, is the equal of anything every done by Lou Gehrig or Jimmie Foxx or Joe DiMaggio or Stan Musial. It wasn’t even his best season; his best season was 1975. He had three other seasons as good as 1976.”
Morgan played 22 major league seasons, batting .271 with 268 home runs, 1133 rbi, 1650 runs scored, 689 stolen bases, 2517 hits, and 1865 walks. Morgan had a career OPS of .819 (132 OPS+). He played eight seasons with the Reds, batting .288 with 152 homers, 612 rbi, 816 runs scored, and 406 stolen bases. With the Reds, Morgan had an OBP of .415, a .470 SLP, and an OPS of .885 (147 OPS+). For a full list of Morgan accomplishments, please click here.
Here are some quotes about and from Joe Morgan:
“I’m not bad. I’m no Joe Morgan, but I’m pretty good for a white guy.”–Pete Rose
“When I think of the $100,000 ballplayer, I think in terms of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale. I also think of Joe Morgan. These people did it all. They had to work up slowly to that $100,000 figure, the symbol of a very special ballplayer.”–Reggie Smith
“The best percentage player in baseball history…was Joe Morgan.”–Bill James
“Players who are on-field and clubhouse leaders of outstanding teams, like (Joe) DiMaggio, Ken Boyer, Bob Gibson, Carlton Fisk, George Brett, Hal McRae, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan–those players should be given credit for that, in evaluating their overall contribution to a team.”–Bill James
“Joe Morgan may have been only 5’7” tall, but fans who saw him play and Baseball Almanac believes he covered the infield like he was at least ten feet tall!”
“A good base stealer should make the whole infield jumpy. Whether you steal or not, you’re changing the rhythm of the game. If the pitcher is concerned about you, he isn’t concentrating enough on the batter.”
“I take my (Hall of Fame) vote as a salute to the little guy, the one who doesn’t hit five-hundred home runs. I was one of the guys that did all they could to win. I’m proud of my stats, but I don’t think I ever got on for Joe Morgan. If I stole a base, it was to help us win a game, and I like to think that’s what made me special.”
“Personally, I’m happy for baseball that I won (the 1975 MVP). What I mean is that kids should strive to be complete players. With the designated-hitter rule in the American League, I hear some kids saying, ‘Well, I can hit, so I guess I can be a designated hitter.’ But, there’s more to baseball than just doing one thing.”