Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, a two-time World Series champion and two-time National League MVP, died Sunday. He was 77. Morgan died of non-specified polyneuropathy, his family said in a statement. Morgan played a total of 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, including eight seasons with the Reds. During his time in Cincinnati, he became a key member of the "Big Red Machine," winning back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976.
Morgan also won back-to-back NL MVP Awards both of those years. Furthermore, Morgan finished in the top-10 of voting for the National League MVP for five straight seasons with the Reds, from 1972 to 1976.
Morgan started his career with the Houston Astros (then the Colt .45s) before the club traded him to the Reds at the end of the 1971 season. A two-time World Series champion with Cincinnati, Morgan hit .259/.364/.296 with three RBI to help the Reds beat the Red Sox in seven games in the 1975 World Series. In Game 7, Morgan's two-out, go ahead RBI single was pivotal in helping the Reds win their first World Series in 35 years. Morgan helped the club defend its title in the 1976 World Series against the Yankees where he hit .333/.412/.733 in four games.
His time with the Reds ranks him second in on-base percentage (.415) on the franchise leaderboard. Morgan also ranks in the top-five on the Reds all-time record for on-base plus slugging (.885) and stolen bases (406). Morgan also finished his baseball career with 10 All-Star appearances and five Gold Glove Awards. The Reds retired Morgan's uniform No. 8 in 1987.
"Joe wasn't just the best second baseman in baseball history, he was the best player I ever saw and one of the best people I've ever known," Hall of Famer and Reds teammate Johnny Bench said in a statement. "He was a dedicated father and husband and a day won't go by that I won't think about his wisdom and friendship. He left the world a better, fairer, and more equal place than he found it, and inspired millions along the way."
Following his retirement from baseball, Morgan became the color commentator on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
Morgan was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1990.
"Joe was one-of-a-kind," his wife Theresa said in a statement. "Both on and off the field, he fought for what he believed in and dedicated himself to helping others rise and thrive. His example will inspire people for decades to come."
The Reds issued the following statement on Monday:
"The Reds family is heartbroken. Joe was a giant in the game and was adored by the fans in this city," Castellini said. "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. On a Big Red Machine roster stocked with greats, Joe earned National League MVP honors during both of Cincinnati's World Series Championship seasons of 1975 and 1976. ... Those who knew him – whether as a Sunday Night Baseball broadcaster, a Hall of Fame board member or simply as one of the legends of our National Pastime – are all the better for it."
Morgan is the sixth Hall of Famer to die this year. The baseball world also lost Tom Seaver, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Al Kaline in 2020.