The death of baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan this week took me back to the early 1960s and a rickety old stadium in Houston where I saw my first Major League Baseball game. I was there with my Little League team from Bryan/College Station.
We all wore our uniforms, as did about 5,000 other Little Leaguers that day. The outfield stands were a splash of rainbow colors from so many uniformed youngsters sitting together.
While I don’t remember anything about that game from 1963, I do remember that Joe Morgan was a member of the Houston Colt 45s, who were playing the St. Louis Cardinals. Jimmy Wynn, known as the Toy Cannon, also was a member of that team.
Bonus memory: We could see the Astrodome under construction right next door to Colt Stadium, so the baseball future held a lot of promise for a 10-year-old.
Of course, Morgan eventually was traded from Houston and built his Hall of Fame career as a key player with the 1970s Big Red Machine in Cincinnati. The Houston Chronicle published a story this week about how he was the one that got away. Read it here.
That 1963 Houston Colt 45s experience pretty much ensured I would be a lifelong baseball fan.
Like most kids of the time, I collected baseball cards and memorized the starting lineups of the teams. I even made up my own stats-based game that mimicked the APBA baseball board game but used a spinner instead of dice.
Fast forward more than half a century to the awful year of 2020. Morgan and Wynn both died this year. They are among a host of former Major League players who passed away in 2020, a list that includes all-time greats like Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver, Al Kaline and Whitey Ford.
Baseball Reference publishes a running list of every former player who died this year. You can see the list here.
The deaths of Seaver, Ford, Brock, Gibson and Morgan came in rapid succession. It hurt. As a child of the ‘60s, it’s painful to watch my heroes pass into history.
Each death hammers home the passage of time, but I’m hanging on to the distant memories. It’s all we have left in the end.