Joe Morgan (True) Rookie Cards

Although there were plenty of opportunities to become a professional baseball player, there were no offers from any MLB teams. Not even a college scholarship offer. That was until Bill Wright, a scout for the Houston .45s noticed him. Joe Morgan has two true rookie cards.

Joe Morgan the Delivery Man

Morgan signed a pro-contract on November 1, 1962. In his first full season, 1965, he played in 157 games and had 601 at-bats.

He produced 163 hits, 97 walks, and came in 2nd for Rookie of the Year Honors losing the award to another second baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers, Jim Lefebvre. However, Joe exceeded rookie expectations.

An ultimate five-tool player Joe had the speed to run the bases, quick hands that earned him multiple gold gloves, hit for power, hit for average, and if you needed a walk he was your guy.

Joe put the work in. Whatever the team needed he would deliver. Some believe that because of his small 5′ 7″ frame he was the ultimate workhorse.

In his 9 years with the Houston .45s, he was a two-time All-Star.

Year after year he delivered all-star caliber play and was a threat in stolen bases which was ironic because he drew so many walks.

In 1971, Joe Morgan gets traded to the Cincinnati Reds, it’s been said, at the time of the trade, Reds Manager Sparky Anderson told General Manager Bob Howsam,

“You just won the pennant for the Cincinnati Reds.”

Joe Morgan’s Batting Stance

As he approached the plate his mannerisms and stance looked like every other left-handed batter, nothing real impressionable.

However, once he was set and the pitcher began his wind up Joe would do this double-clutch twitch with his left arm. So what’s up with that?

Joe explained it this way, when he was playing in the Astrodome he developed a bad habit of hitting fly balls.

Maybe because the park was so big but primarily because he brought his arm towards his body during his swing.

This double-clutch twitch was to remind him to get his arm away from his body. He had success for the first week and so he kept doing it and developed mental muscle.

It didn’t take long and he didn’t even realize he was doing it. You have to see it to believe it.

The Key to the Big Red Machine was Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan made his presence felt immediately, he provided the spark that fired up the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, the Cincinnati Reds dominated baseball during this decade.

Teammates like Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, George Foster, Ken Griffey Sr, just to name a few led the team to win World Series Titles in 1975 & 1976.

Joe Morgan was at the center of it all, and also won NL MVP during those Championship years. He was selected as an All-Star every year between 1972-1979.

During their peak it seemed like Morgan, Rose and Bench always got the publicity but Joe always made sure to let everyone know, “it’s because of the team that made them so powerful.”

Morgan played for a total of 22 years: 10 years as a .45s now known as the Astros, 8 years with the Reds, 2 years with the Giants, and one-year stints with the Phillies and the A’s before retiring in 1984.

His heart, however, in his own words, “belongs to Cincinnati.”

Those Who Knew Him Knew Him Well

Lately, in my research for articles, I get a lot of insight listening to the testimonies of those who knew them best.

It typically will come from family and/or teammates, they’ll give you certain insights that you don’t get anywhere else.

Here’s what others say about Joe Morgan:

  • Johnny Bench“all we heard of him was, he was a trouble maker, a not my fault kind of guy. Because he was a little guy I thought. But he played hard and whatever we needed from him he gave it to us.” He goes on to say, “Joe was a big note taker, after every game he would sit at his locker and take notes of opposing teams.”
  • Pete Rose“the greatest second baseman ever! Very intelligent, a smart baseball man. Everyone knew he was going to steal but he would steal the base anyhow. He only stole when it meant something never to pad stats. A classy guy never given to hard alcohol, bars never interested him. A glass of wine with dinner and that was about it.”
  • Bob Costas – worked with Joe as a commentator for 6 years in the mid-90s he says, “He has the highest WAR of any second baseman since 1940. Extreme credibility, many offers to manage a team. Proud of who he was, where he came from, and always gave back.”
  • Jon Miller – worked with Joe as a commentator for 21 years he says, “never-ending well of energy. Involved, active, a pioneer in Prime Time – Sunday Night Baseball, as a black man. He reminded the Commissioner of his obligations of diversity in baseball. As a commentator, he taught you the intricacies of the game.”

Career & Accomplishments

According to Baseball-Reference.com Joe Morgan career stats are:

Career Summary: 2,517 Hits | 268 Home Runs | .271 Batting Avg. | 1,133 RBI | 689 Stolen Bases.

Accomplishments:

  • 10x All-Star
  • 1x All-Star MVP (1972)
  • 5x Gold Glove
  • 2x World Series Champion (1975-76)
  • 1x Silver Slugger (1982)
  • 2x MVP (1975-76)
  • 2x MLB Player of the Year (1975-76)
  • Hall of Fame Induction (1990)

I heard a quote from Joe’s dear friend Johnny Bench, he says,

“For those who knew him no words are necessary, and for those that didn’t know him no words are adequate.”

Before We Begin

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True Rookie Card

Identifier (RC) Defined

A rookie card is a trading card that is the first to feature an athlete AFTER that athlete has participated in the highest level of competition within his or her respected sport. It must be licensed by both the League and the Players Association. An RC identifier is only given to cards that fit this criteria. Below is an exhaustive list of the featured players true rookie cards.

1965 Topps, #16 (RC)

The 1965 Topps is a 598 card set released in a 6 series. The Joe Morgan rookie card can be found in Series 1 packs (cards 1-88).

All the rookie cards in this set were shared with either two or four players arranged by the team.

Some rookie cards like this one feature A.L. & N.L. “Rookie Stars.” Joe is featured with teammate Sonny Jackson who had an average 12-year career all of it with Houston.

The card front design features headshots of both rookies surrounded by a gray border that broadens towards the top and all of it sits on a white border.

What makes the 1965 Topps set stand out is those beautiful pennant flags that feature team names. The yellow pennant shown here goes very nicely with the gray photo border.

The card back is outlined in blue borders and offers minor league stats with a sentence of commentary.

As of the Date of This Post

Total Population Reports:

  • PSA: 2,978
  • SGC: 565
  • BGS: 604

1965 O-Pee-Chee, #16 (RC)

This is a unique card because in 1965 O-Pee-Chee premiered in the hobby as a legitimate card manufacturer. It was based in Canada and operated under a sub-license with Topps Co.

There is no brand banner on the front of the card, nor is there any French/English translations like in later releases. 

So the only way to really distinguish between the two is by the slight variation in cardboard stock on the back of the card.

The Topps copy looks more white while this one appears to have more gray card stock. But perhaps the easiest way to tell is by where it was printed.

On the card back, lower right-hand side it will either say “Printed in the USA” or “Printed in Canada.”

As of the Date of This Post

Total Population Reports:

  • PSA: 55
  • SGC: 5
  • BGS: 5

Post-Rookie Themed

Post-Rookie Theme

Identifier (PRT) Defined

The PRT identifier has a dual function. It’s used to identify cards that feature a player after their rookie season but in some way the card design has elements that feature a rookie theme. Also, for vintage, this identifier can be used for second year cards which are highly collectable, and often times preferred, but they are NOT true rookie cards.

1966 Topps, #195 (PRT)

1966 Topps is a 598 card set too and it was released in 7 series! Card 195 which is the Joe Morgan second-year card, lands in Series 2 (cards 110-283).

Among some collectors, the second-year cards are desirable for two reasons. First, it’s typically a more affordable option. Secondly, there popular because it features the player by themselves.

Here we have a full action pose of Joe going for a makeshift ground ball, which represents his amazing defensive skills.

This specific card gives collectors a bonus-baby, the 1965 All-Star Rookie trophy. These trophies are typically applied to the rookies who exceeded expectations, and there a collector favorite.

The design of the card front is okay, not my favorite Topps design of the 1960s, but that’s just my opinion.

Card back is really cool, giving us a reddish/pink card stock, player bio, commentary, stats, and this really cool cartoon telling us that Joe is a pretty good pool player. I love it!

As of the Date of This Post

Total Population Reports:

  • PSA: 885
  • SGC: 109
  • BGS: 107

1966 O-Pee-Chee, #195 (PRT)

The 1966 O-Pee-Chee is a 196 card set and mimics the Topps design in just about every aspect possible except for slight cardboard and ink distinctions on the back.

But perhaps the easiest way to tell is by where it was printed.

On the card back, lower right-hand side it will either say “Printed in USA” or “Printed in Canada.”

As of the Date of This Post

Total Population Reports:

  • PSA: 16
  • SGC: 1
  • BGS: 1

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.

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