Over the previous five seasons, Morris, then 31, had posted a 3.51 ERA and 1.22 WHIP while averaging a 19-12 record, 36 starts, 15 complete games and 265 innings pitched a year. In the 1984 postseason, when the Tigers destroyed the Royals and Padres en route to a World runs in seven innings, but with a 5-1 lead, manager Tom Kelly pulled him after only 100 pitches, which would become crucial in the days to come.
I was prepared to pitch more,” Morris said. I always wanted to finish my games.”
The Twins took Game 2 as well when Kevin Tapani dueled Tom Glavine to a 2-2 tie through the top of the eighth in Minnesota. After Scott Leius led off the bottom half of the inning with a home run to left-center, Rick Aguilera picked up the save and Minnesota had a 2-0 lead going to Atlanta.
Game 3 was a classic, with the Braves desperate for a victory. It went 12 innings before Atlanta prevailed on a two-out single by Mark Lemke off Aguilera, which scored David Justice with the game-winner.
Morris hooked up with John Smoltz for Game 4. The Twins ace left after six innings and only 94 pitches, though he departed with a 2-1 lead after the Twins scored in the top of the seventh on a Mike Pagliarulo home run.
Morris and Smoltz squared off in Game 4 and Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, and then in Game 5 of the ’92 Series, when Morris was with Toronto.
Series title, Morris went 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA and two complete games in three starts.
Jack Morris was a beast.
Collusion, however, cost Morris his free agency after he went 21-8 in 1986, with a 3.27 ERA in 267 innings, 223 strikeouts and a league-best six shutouts. The right-hander was forced to stay in Detroit and take a one-year deal worth $1.85 million. After another big year and a division title, Morris signed for two years and $4 million following the ’87 season.
After three more years in Detroitand an arbitrator’s ruling in favor of the playersMorris was granted free agency and turned down an offer to stay with the Tigers. Instead, the St. Paul native signed with his hometown Twins in time for the 1991 season.
During a career highlighted by three World Series rings, Morris started Game 1 of the Fall Classic three times. After winning two games for Minnesota in the ALCS against Toronto, he drew the Game 1 assignment in his one and only season for the Twins.
In the Series opener against Atlanta, Morris won his third game of the postseason by allowing just a pair of
Smoltz left after seven innings and 97 pitches, and when the Braves tied it in the bottom of the seventh on a Lonnie Smith blast, the game was up to the bullpens. It was still tied in the bottom of the ninth when pinch-hitter Jerry Willard’s sacrifice fly brought home Lemke to end the game and tied the World Series at 2-2.
Soaring with confidence, the Braves destroyed the Twins in Game 5, 14-5, and took a 3-2 Series lead back to Minnesota. After nearly falling behind three games to none a few days earlier, now they needed just a single victory in Minnesota to capture the World Series.
Game 6 was yet another amazing contest, featuring four lead changes as starters Steve Avery and Scott Erickson each went six innings and allowed three runs. In the first inning of Game 6, Kirby Puckett tripled home a run and scored. In the third inning, with a man on and one out, Puckett scaled the glass in left-center to rob Ron Gant.
I thought it was gone,” Morris said. If he doesn’t make that play, we lose that night and there’s never a Game 7. One of the best catches I’ve ever seen.
Still tied 3-3, the game advanced to the 11th inning,
when Puckett led off against Charlie Leibrandt, who hadn’t pitched since starting Game 1 a week earlier. With the count 2-1, Leibrandt hung a changeup. Puckett blasted it to left-center, beyond the same spot where he had made the catch in the third, leading to Jack Buck’s famous call: We’ll see you tomorrow night!”
That set up Game 7 on Oct. 27, 1991.
There was no question in my mind that we would win the game,” Morris said nearly 25 years later. I was pitching and I wasn’t going to let us lose. I was so confident about what was going to happen, and I felt like I could pitch all night if I had to.
He almost had to.
Two pitchers who would retire with reputations for being among the greatest postseason performers in baseball history, Morris and Smoltz would battle for the second time in the Series. They pitched on three days’ rest, with Morris starting for the third time against Atlanta.
Series. Now, seven Octobers later, Smoltz was facing off against his idol in Game 7 in Minnesota. Morris, who grew up a Minnesota sports fan, was looking to bring home a title for his hometown team.
I kept thinking to myself during that Series that I’m in it with the fans and there’s no way we’re losing this series, Morris said. I wasn’t going to let them down. Just was not going to let that happen.
With umpire Don Denkinger behind the plate, Morris and Smoltz locked up in one of the great World Series clashes of all time. Through seven scoreless innings, each pitcher had allowed only a single baserunner as far as third base.
In the top of the eighth, Smith led off with a base hit to right and was still on first when Morris appeared to strike out Terry Pendleton with a splitter in the dirt. But it was ruled a foul tip and Pendleton was still alive.
That was strike three, Morris said with a smile. Never touched it. Look at it all you want. He struck out.
Jack Morris Photo Gallery
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