Hall of Famer Joe Morgan to receive bone marrow transplant

By Alec Brzezinski
Published on July 1, 2016

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is set to receive a bone marrow transplant, according to Sports Illustrated.

Former Reds star Pete Rose revealed last weekend at his Reds Hall of Fame induction that his former teammate was in need of a bone marrow transplant because of an undisclosed medical condition.

Johnny Bench, Reds legend and former teammate of Morgan, confirmed that Morgan had a donor lined up and was preparing to receive the transplant.

“He’s getting his body prepared for that (the bone marrow transplant),” Bench said via SI Now. “He’d like to just be by himself doing all of this and everything else. He’s got a perfect match. Last week was the best he’s sounded, really good spirits. He’s doing rehab every day.

“You know he went through a point with all his problems and knee surgery and everything else, he was in the hospital 52 days. So, y’know, we keep monitoring. He’s not going to be at the Hall of Fame (induction ceremonies at Cooperstown) this year, and he was really missed this past weekend in Cincinnati. But, man, what a player and what a man, and we’re always thinking the good things for him.”

Morgan, 72, won back-to-back MVP awards in 1975 and ’76, helping lead the Reds’ “Big Red Machine” to a World Series championship in both years.

He then became a broadcaster in 1985 after retiring from baseball the year before. Morgan was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990



Twenty-two men we hoped would never age sat on a stage at the ballpark Saturday, offering tribute to the ultimate would-be Peter Pan. No one who looks at Pete Rose now sees a 75-year-old with bad knees and a tire in his midsection. P-e-e-e-te! is forever 22, running out bases on balls, his big-league future a constellation of base hits.

Nineteen-seventy-six wasn’t 40 years ago. It exists today, more real than Camelot and every bit as legendary. Reds Hall of Famers and members of the ’76 team sat elbow to elbow, wearing their crimson hall jackets. All but one. One Hall of Fame member of the Big Red Machine.

When I prefaced a question to Rose with “Is it strange and a little sad Joe Morgan isn’t here?’’ Rose interrupted with, “He’s here. He’s just not sitting up here.’’

Joe Morgan was at home, in the San Francisco Bay area. He’s doing well, everyone says. “I talked to Joe this morning,’’ said Rose. “He sounded real strong.’’ Joe Morgan is 72.

In early spring 2014, Morgan went in for knee replacement surgery. It didn’t go well. The knee became infected. That’s what the public knows about the health of the Hall of Fame second baseman. It’s all he has chosen to say.

On the Fox Sports broadcast later Saturday, Rose told the world what Morgan wanted to keep private: Morgan is awaiting a bone-marrow transplant for an unspecified illness.

Morgan was in town for the All-Star Game last summer, looking gaunt and using a cane. He appeared on the video board Saturday, to offer his congratulations to Rose, and he looked about the same.

“He’s here,’’ reiterated Rose. “We all miss him, right?’’

Joe Morgan was the MVP of the National League in 1975. He repeated in ’76. He was the best player on arguably the best team in history. As Johnny Bench recalled, “You needed a base hit, he got you a base hit, you needed a stolen base, he got you a stolen base. You needed a home run, he got you that, too.’’

Morgan was as meticulous as Rose, but in a different way. Rose could tell you how many lifetime hits he had against Tom Seaver. Morgan could tell you how fast Seaver’s pickoff move to first was. (And how fast Seaver’s catcher’s throw was to second base.) He was a scholar of the game.

But it was more than that. Beyond all the gaudy numbers we cite when espousing the Machine was a mutual respect and friendship that trounced egos and individuality. Morgan was a big part of that. Still is.

“I hate to talk to him now because when he starts talking for a couple minutes he starts crying, because he wanted to be here,’’ Rose said.

It was Morgan, along with Bench and Mike Schmidt, who met with Bud Selig, asking then-commissioner Selig to take another, harder look at reinstating Rose. Rare are the players who stay teammates after the clubhouse doors close for good. We mention it here because that rare ’76 team had that rare quality.

It was five years ago when Rose himself broke down, and apologized to Bench for spoiling Bench’s own Hall of Fame induction, the Cooperstown version, in 1989. Bench’s weekend was dominated with talk of Rose’s expulsion from baseball.

When a member of that team is honored or in trouble, count on a host of teammates to be around. Ken Griffey was there Saturday. And Bench, Jack Billingham, George Foster, Dave Concepcion, Tony Perez, Cesar Geronimo, Ken Griffey, Rawly Eastwick and Dan Driessen.

Joe Morgan, consummate pro, wanted badly to attend. He wanted to be among the teammates – lifelong, as it turns out — that welcomed Rose into the only hall of fame he’ll ever be in. His absence hurt Morgan enough, he cried.

“I think he’s very happy in so many ways for Pete,’’ Bench said. “Pete was an inspiration to him. Pete admired everything about Joe, and Joe admired everything about Pete.’’

Morgan spoke from the video board. “Every player should play one year with Pete Rose,’’ he said. “I played eight.’’ Morgan’s voice sounded strong. If he needs help in the coming months, he’ll have plenty. All those guys in the red sportcoats.

We don’t like it when our athletes age. It reminds us of our own mortality.

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