Jack Morris: Enjoy the journey

Five-time MLB All Star pitcher Jack Morris visited the SDSU campus on Nov. 20 to speak to students and community members in the Performing Arts Center.

Morris opened his speech talking to the audience about being grateful. This led into his retelling of his rise from a seven year old who dreamed of playing in the big leagues to the 1991 World Series MVP with the Minnesota Twins.

He said the dream began when his parents took him to his first baseball game after which he told his mom that he would someday play for the Twins, but that was only the beginning.

“[During recess] we were playing baseball and I told my third grade teacher, I want you to know that someday I’m going to be a player for the Minnesota twins in the major leagues,” Morris said. “She had the same kind of response my mom did. She just said, ‘keep dreaming Jack. You never know.’”

Morris used the story to relate back to how he had a dream and pursued that dream with everything he had. He said he is both grateful and lucky for how things turned out.

“One of my pet peeves is guys, and people in general, who’ve got a God-given talent and they don’t recognize it and don’t appreciate it,” Morris said. “To me that’s the biggest waste of life.”

After high school, Morris went to play baseball at Brigham Young University where he played against the best programs in the country, but it was during the summer in a small laidback Twin Cities league where Morris found inspiration when a Minnesota Twins scout said he couldn’t make it.

“He came up to me and he told me that I should be very thankful that I was getting a college education out of baseball and don’t expect anything more,” Morris said. “And it was because he saw me clowning around. There was nothing that motivated me and probably nothing that motivated anybody here in this room more than somebody telling you that you can’t do it. … That was a huge building block and motivator for me to move forward and maybe prove somebody wrong.”

The scout’s prediction proved false and Morris was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, but Morris said that he did not find the minor leagues as glamourous as the facilities he experienced while at BYU, creating in him a burning desire to make it to the majors.

“I remember one time when we went to the showers and one out of 12 worked – it was flooded,” Morris said. “That was the first time that I learned that guys wore these things called sandals to protect their feet from fungus.”

Morris finally got his debut in 1977, but his first start came about in the most unorthodox manner, as he got a last minute spot start in the place of the popular Mark Fidrych who was working his way back from injury at the time.

 “As I’m walking down to the bullpen the PA announcer at Tiger Stadium is on the mic. He said this literally in front of a packed house, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, today’s starting pitcher Mark Fidrych is unable to pitch. Today’s starting pitcher will be Jack Morris.’ 45,000 people stood up and booed,” Morris said.

In the following two years, the two pitchers had an opportunity to bond as they fought to recover from the same injury. In the end it was Morris who went on to have the successful career while Fidrych’s career fizzled.

“I always say to myself, why did that happen?” Morris said. “Again it’s one of those paths in our crazy life that you wonder why you. … From that point on my career took off.”

From there, Morris skimmed through his career with the Tigers to the 1991 season that most of the Twins fans in the audience were eager to hear about. He also addressed Game Seven in the World Series when he fought to stay in the game after the ninth inning and finished with a 10-inning shutout.

“I looked him [manager Tom Kelly] right in the eye and said ‘I’m not going anywhere, this is my game,’” Morris said. “He walked away to the other end of the dugout to our pitching coach … By the time he got there I was three feet off his butt because no was not the right answer and I figured if I can’t make front page news for winning this game then I’ll be the first major league pitcher to beat the crap out of my manager. He turned around and said, ‘Oh, what the hell, it’s just a game.’”

Morris later said that he was grateful for Tom Kelly’s faith in him and the risk Kelly took. This led Morris into a summation of the message he wanted to get across.

“If you know in your heart that it’s the right thing to do then you never have to question it,” Morris said. “Because the right thing is usually the right thing.”

Looking back on his career, Morris said the most important things were not the accomplishments but the journey and his work ethic throughout that journey.

Later on Morris gave the audience a question to consider.

“Was our world better off because we were here or did we screw it up, did we hold up the wheel?” Morris said. “And that’s what my message really is about.”

Following his speech which lasted roughly 40 minutes, Morris opened up a 20-minute question and answer session to the audience. The final question to come up concerned Morris not being voted into the Hall of Fame.

“If I’m going to look at my achievements in baseball through the eyes of a majority of guys who have never played the game and their opinion, then I failed,” Morris said. “I, in my heart of hearts, believe that I was as good as anybody.”

Morris went on to name other players who he feels should have been in the Hall of Fame, which he said helped him come to grips with not being elected – knowing that it is a very subjective process of which he was not the only victim.

“Just to be considered, to me is an honor,” Morris said.

Afterwards Morris stood in the lobby where he signed autographs and took pictures with fans.