That final World Series game was his third start in eight days. He had already logged 273 innings.
The Braves quickly and consistently challenged whatever was left in his reservoir of strength and will. They put a runner on second in the second inning, runners at first and second in the third, a runner at second in the fourth, runners at first and third in the fifth...and Morris allowed none of them to score.
"When Kirby hit that [Game 6] home run, a calm came over me that I never had felt in the game," Morris says. "Growing up, I always envisioned being on the mound in Game 7, bottom of the ninth. I had this calm come over me knowing that I had mentally prepared for this game my whole life."
There was, however, something Morris never counted on: an opposing pitcher with the same kind of resolve.
John Smoltz grew up in Lansing, Mich., 90 minutes from Tiger Stadium. His father played the accordion at the Tigers' team party after they won the 1968 World Series. Smoltz's grandfather worked at Tiger Stadium for more than 30 years, first on the grounds crew and then as an attendant in the pressroom. He would brag to Bill Campbell, Al Kaline, Bill Lajoie and anybody else in the Detroit front office, "My grandson's going to play for you one day."
John was a huge Tigers fan. "Never missed a game," he says. He made a few trips to Tiger Stadium each year and listened to all the other games on the radio. When the team played on the West Coast, Smoltz would set his alarm clock so he could wake to hear Ernie Harwell call the first pitch. He'd catch a few innings before falling asleep again.
He liked all those Tigers—Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Sweet Lou Whitaker and the rest—but one player stood out above all others: Jack Morris.
"He was tough on the mound," Smoltz says. "He had good stuff. And he wasn't one of those pitchers who came out when it was convenient. He pitched a lot of innings, a lot of big games."
In the summer of 1985, just as Grandpa Smoltz had been predicting for years, Detroit drafted his grandson. Smoltz signed too late to play in rookie ball, so the Tigers let him spend two weeks with the major league club. Smoltz would put on a uniform for batting practice, change into his street clothes and watch the game from the stands, then return to the clubhouse upon its conclusion. He was just a kid out of high school, so green that when the team traveled to New York City and the hotel desk clerk gave him a card to open the door to his room, he had no idea what it was.
Smoltz hung out with the bullpen catcher and kept his mouth shut. He sat there in awe as he shared a locker room with the Tigers of Harwell's word pictures, only they were crankier and saltier in real life, veterans playing out the string in a disappointing season.