Righthander Matt Morris won 22 games for the St. Louis Cardinals last season and finished third in the voting for the National League Cy Young Award. Self-confidence-wise for Morris as a pitcher, this is fantastic, especially because he needs work in other areas.
Like music. For the last few years Morris occasionally has brought along a guitar when the Cards go on the road. He has never taken a lesson. "It's fun," says Morris, a die-hard Phish fan, "but I sorta suck."
And comedy. Since childhood Morris has been telling jokes. Here's a mainstay:
What did the snail say when it slid down the turtle's back?
And boating. Last February, Morris, who spends his off-seasons in Jupiter, Fla., purchased a 16-foot catamaran, his first vessel of any kind. He phoned his girlfriend, Heather Reader, in Chicago and told her he was about to attempt a test sail. "It's sorta choppy," he said, "but I'm going for it!" The maiden voyage went smoothly. Reader, an experienced sailor, arrived a few days later for a visit, during which she agreed to let Morris show off his skippering skills. She would live to regret it.
"Matt almost killed me," says Reader. "It was windy, and a wave broke over us."
The two fell into the Atlantic. After re-boarding, Morris tried sailing toward Reader, who was bobbing nearby. "First the boat smacked into me," she says. "Then he keeps sailing by, because he can't stop the boat. I thought, I'm about to drown." Reader survived to tell the story and, this winter, to share a two-bedroom off-season home with Morris in Jupiter. Begrudgingly, she concedes that Morris has learned to handle the boat. "Mart's a little insane," she says, "but if he thinks he can do something, he has to do it."
The same intrepid attitude that nearly led to Reader's decapitation has worked wonders on the mound for the 27-year-old Morris. Two years after missing the 1999 season because of Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow, the 6' 5", 210-pound Morris emerged as one of baseball's best pitchers. Last season he went 22-8 with a 3.16 ERA, established himself as the St. Louis ace and earned a new three-year, $27 million contract beginning in 2002. Against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a National League Division Series, which the eventual World Series champions won in five games, Morris was brilliant in two matchups against dominant righthander Curt Schilling. In Game 1 Morris allowed one run over seven innings in a 1-0 Cardinals loss. Then, in an epic and deciding Game 5, Morris again surrendered a single run before departing after the eighth with the game tied. The next inning St. Louis lost 2-1.
"We can't sulk, because we all gave 100 percent and we lost to the champions," says Morris. "But we expected to win that series—and the World Series. It makes me hungrier for next season. Much hungrier."