Joe Morgan still has a lot to offer baseball

Hall of Fame second baseman, 70, is no longer a broadcaster but remains involved in the game as part of the Cincinnati Reds organization and will be recognized Saturday with a lifetime achievement award from a scouts foundation.

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Dusty Baker, Joe Morgan

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, right, watches batting practice with former Cincinnati Reds Manager Dusty Baker in September. Morgan continues to be involved with the Reds organization, serving as a special advisor to the team's head of baseball operations. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press / September 30, 2013)

Joe Morgan never retired from baseball. He just stopped playing in games.

He is 70, going on 45. What we remember — the left-handed batter swatting hits as easily as we swat flies — remains the essence of who he is and what he will always be.

He played in the majors from 1963 through 1984. Then he went immediately into a broadcasting career that bounced from his beloved Cincinnati Reds to stints with the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, ABC and, most prominently, ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball." His talking career outlasted his playing career, 26 years to 21.

When ESPN cut the cord on him and broadcast partner Jon Miller in 2011, there was the possibility that the ever-present Morgan might fade from view.

Not so. Ideally, not ever. For as long as we can, we need to hear from the man rated among the best second basemen in the history of the game. He played in 10 All-Star games and was National League most valuable player in 1975 and 1976, when his Reds won the World Series each year. In 1990, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, getting 82% of the vote.

He lives in Danville, Calif., and serves as a special advisor to the Reds' head of baseball operations.

"I shouldn't be on TV now," he says. "I evaluate talent."

He also does some community work and, when there is need, gets down on the field, rolls up his sleeves and instructs.

"I couldn't be happier," he says. "The broadcasting was great for the most part, but not so much the last few years."

There were critics of his broadcasting, led by a website, Part of the anti-Morgan movement started because he is an outspoken critic of the sabermetric groups in baseball. Those folks favor computer analysis and statistical breakdowns for team personnel decisions and game strategy over human experience and time-tested moves.

That makes the prestigious award Morgan will receive Saturday night at Dennis Gilbert's annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation dinner at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza more fitting.

He will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and with a sideways swipe at the stats people, Morgan says there would be no award, much less lifetime achievement, were it not for baseball scouts.

"If I had to go into the draft right now," he says, "I never would have gotten a chance. I was 5 foot 5, 140 pounds. No computer in the world would give me a look.

"Without a scout, a man named Bill Wight, I wouldn't have gotten a shot."

It is also interesting that he will be honored in a city that may still remember a home run he struck for the Giants on the final day of the 1982 regular season, knocking the Dodgers out of the playoffs.

"Everybody thinks I took a lot of satisfaction in that," Morgan says, "but it wasn't what people thought."

The Dodgers had eliminated the Giants from the postseason the day before. Morgan connected against Terry Forster with two men on.

"It had been one of my favorite seasons ever," Morgan says. "I just wanted to leave Giants fans with something happy, a high note."

Throughout his career, Morgan had kept his emotions well in check. But when he rounded the bases that day, he flung his arms into the air in celebration.

"I had never done that before," he says.

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