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Morgan Pitches in First Series Game

October 28, 2001

PHOENIX (AP) _ Sometime shortly after he’s thrown his last pitch of the season, Mike Morgan will make one more road trip.

He’ll get in his car and drive several hours _ to finish a conversation he started long ago.

Last winter, while the Arizona reliever was talking to his father on the phone, Henry Morgan died of a heart attack. His dad was buried in a Diamondbacks jersey and cap.

Henry Morgan had seen Mike break into the big leagues as a teen-ager way back in 1978 and go on to play for a record 12 teams in the majors. Only one thing was missing.

And now, at age 42, Morgan plans to visit his father’s grave near Las Vegas and tell him he’s taken care of that, too.

``I’m going to go back to the desert to where he is resting and say, ’Pops, I made it to the World Series,‴ Morgan said this week. ``He’d like that.″

Morgan’s long wait ended Saturday night when he pitched a perfect eighth for the Diamondbacks against the New York Yankees in Game 1.

Having played pro ball for 22 different clubs in the majors and minors during a span of 24 seasons, Morgan wasn’t too sure he’d ever get this far.

He’d reached the postseason just once, in 1998 when his Chicago Cubs were swept by Atlanta in the first round.

This season did not look promising, either, especially after he missed half of it because of foot and arch injuries.

``You watch the World Series year after year at home on television and yes, you start to think that maybe it’s just not meant to be,″ he said. ``I mean, you see Derek Jeter, and he’s 25 or so and he’s been in it five times. I’ve been playing about as long as he’s been alive.

``But that’s what keeps you going _ the hope that someday you might make it.″

Arizona teammate Jay Bell can relate. He was one out away from the World Series when his Pittsburgh Pirates lost Game 7 of the 1992 NL championship series to Atlanta.

At 35, Bell also is headed to his first Series.

``Nobody deserves anything in this game, nobody gives you anything. You have to earn it,″ he said.

``But you look around this locker room at guys who have played 15, 16, 22 years,″ he said, glancing at the popular pitcher nicknamed Mo-Man, ``and you think, `Shoot, they deserve it.‴

Morgan will be joined by several Arizona old-timers making their first Series appearance. Randy Johnson, Mark Grace, Bobby Witt and Greg Swindell are over 35. Recently, Swindell brought in a bottle of Geritol for the bullpen crew.

When Arizona beat Atlanta in the NLCS last Sunday, Grace yelled out in a joyful clubhouse: ``I want to congratulate Morgan on finally making the World Series after a 52-year career.″

Morgan celebrated right along. In fact, on the Fox telecast, he was heard using rough language, out of character for the family man.

``I embarrassed myself and the organization, and apologized to everyone I could. To my teammates, to the club and to the fans,″ he said.

Morgan made a big mistake, in retrospect, earlier in his career that cost him a pair of championship rings.

A free agent after the 1991 season, he got a three-year offer from the Toronto Blue Jays and a four-year deal from the Cubs.

He chose the Cubs. While Chicago never made it to the playoffs, the Blue Jays won the next two World Series crowns.

``If I’d gone to Toronto, I guess a lot of guys here would be asking me what it’s like to play in the Series,″ he said. ``Instead, I’m asking them.″

Drafted out of high school in the first round, Morgan made his major league debut a few days later at 18 on June 11, 1978 _ seven months before Diamondbacks reliever Byung-Hyun Kim was born.

Morgan pitched a complete game for Oakland that day, losing 3-0 to a Baltimore lineup that included Ken Singleton, Rick Dempsey and the late Mark Belanger.

Next it was on to New York in a trade for Brian Doyle and Fred Stanley. After the 1982 season, the Yankees sent him and future star Fred McGriff to Toronto.

Over the years, Morgan has gone 140-185 with a 4.22 ERA and one All-Star appearance. He was 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in 31 games this season.

``I’m no Hall of Famer, I know that. I’ve lost more than I’ve won. But I’ve always been there to take the ball,″ he said.

The next time he gets it, he hopes, will be on baseball’s biggest stage.

``My father taught me a lot of things, and one of them was perseverance,″ he said. ``I’m glad he did. Because I don’t think my career would have felt complete if I didn’t make it to the World Series.″

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