Worth the wait
After 24-year odyssey, Morgan pitches in World Series
Updated: Sunday October 28, 2001 3:26 AM
By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated
PHOENIX -- "I am the white Satchel Paige," says Mike Morgan. "I'm gonna pitch til I'm 50."
Ten minutes have passed since the end of World Series Game 1, a 9-1 Arizona pasting of New York. Morgan, a 42-year-old Jurassic right-hander, is standing in front of his locker, speaking to the press swarm.
There are three of us, to be exact. Three in our swarm. This is two more than Morgan's last swarm, which came after his team's loss in the 1981 Class AA title game.
"I started for the Nashville Sounds," says Morgan. "There was one reporter there, with a camera, and me. My press conference."
Some baseball players are happy to reach the World Series. Others are thrilled. Morgan is supercalifradulisticexpialoditiously enthralled.
His career began in 1978, when Oakland took him with the fourth pick of the June amateur draft. Since then, he has pitched for the A's, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Twins, Cubs (again), Rangers and D'backs. A major league-record 12 organizations, with startlingly sub-mediocre success.
Morgan's career mark is 140-185, with a 4.22 ERA. He has never won 20 games, never posted more than five saves, never won a whole lot of anything. He has been traded for every imaginable scrub, from Tom Dodd and Dale Murray to Ken Dixon to Mike Devereaux to four cans of Dr. Pepper and a half-eaten bag of Pringles.
Worst of all, he never reached a World Series. Until now.
"I've waited my whole career for this one opportunity," he says, a kid's smile lighting his face. "Every year I pitch, and every year I come home and watch the playoffs on TV. I got a call from one of my friends in Utah today [Morgan lives in Park City]. He said, 'Man, your sleeping bag is empty, your ranch is empty. Where are you?'"
Morgan is here. In Phoenix. Land of old people in white shoes. Land of canasta and Ben Gay. Land of hope.
Admittedly, his debut was hardly a memorable one. With the Diamondbacks leading 9-1 on the strength of Curt Schilling's seven-inning, three-hit, eight-strikeout beauty, Morgan was called upon to pitch the eighth inning.
The jog from bullpen to the mound was, in Morgan's words, "Nothing special. I have a job to do, I do it."
Once he reached the mound, was Morgan full of shakes? "Nah," he said. "Same as always." Were you psyched? "Nope."
His outing was perfect. Paul O'Neill popped out to second base. Chuck Knoblauch grounded out to Tony Womack. Derek Jeter flied out to Steve Finley. End of inning, end of drought. Morgan, like hundreds before him, was officially a World Series vet.
Afterward, he spoke of, well, everything. Before the game, said Morgan, his teammates played cards and watched TV. "No nerves," he says. "Wouldn't have known it was a World Series."
Every week or so, former teammate Dan Pleasac, now a Toronto reliever, leaves Morgan a cell phone message. "He always says, 'Two-out hits win games.'" says Morgan. "It's true."
When Morgan entered the game, umpire Steve Rippley told him he could take a few more warmups. Responded Morgan: "Hey, I don't wanna mess up my rifle.'"
As his lips moved at 300,000,000 miles per minute, the smile never left.
Mike Morgan was at the Fall Classic, holding court to his own swarm. It only took 24 years to get here. He was in no rush to leave.