Baseball legend Joe Leonard Morgan died on Sunday, October 11, at his home in Danville, California at the age of 77. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Theresa, their twin daughters Kelly and Ashley, and his daughters Lisa and Angela from his first marriage to Gloria Morgan. Morgan died of non-specified polyneuropathy.
Morgan, a revered baseball player, is widely known as the greatest second baseman in baseball history. His many accolades include two World Series Championships, 10-time All Star, five-time consecutive Gold Glove Award winner and a two-time National League MVP. Morgan was also an Emmy Award winner for “Outstanding Sports Personality.”
A businessman and philanthropist in his later years, Morgan was a lifelong mentor to countless young baseball players, helping them navigate the opportunities and challenges that come with playing in the Major Leagues. Joe had a love for all sports and was an avid tennis player, skier and golfer.
“Joe was one-of-a-kind,” his wife Theresa said. “Both on and off the field, he fought for what he believed in and dedicated himself to helping others rise and thrive. His example will inspire people for decades to come.”
“Joe wasn’t just the best second baseman in baseball history, he was the best player I ever saw and one of the best people I’ve ever known,” said Johnny Bench, the baseball Hall of Famer who played with Morgan at the Reds as a catcher in the 1970s. “He was a dedicated father and husband and a day won’t go by that I won’t think about his wisdom and friendship. He left the world a better, fairer, and more equal place than he found it, and inspired millions along the way.”
Morgan played with six major league teams, including the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine that dominated the National League in the 1970s and remains widely recognized as one of the best teams in baseball history. Morgan was honored in 2013 with a statue at Great American Ballpark to forever commemorate his spirit of winning and his contributions to the City of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Reds franchise. In addition to the Cincinnati Reds, Morgan’s accomplished baseball career spanned two decades to include the Colt .45s (now Astros), the San Francisco Giants, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Oakland Athletics. Morgan was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990. He joined their Board of Directors in 1994 and has served as Vice-Chairman since 2000.
After retiring, Morgan became a businessman and philanthropist while staying connected to his roots in baseball. He finished college, fulfilling a promise he made to his mother 27 years earlier, and ran three franchise restaurants, a beer distributorship and car dealership. In 1985, he began broadcasting for the Cincinnati Reds, and moved on to ABC, NBC, and then as a commentator for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball for 21 years.
Born in Texas in 1943, Morgan moved to Oakland, CA at the age of five where he played high school and collegiate baseball. In 1962, he was discovered by a scout for the Houston Colt 45s and assigned to the Class A Modesto Colts and then to the Durham Bulls. While in North Carolina as the only black player on the team, he experienced the racism of the times. He played in segregated ballparks and wasn’t permitted to stay with his teammates in some cities. Morgan responded to racism by proving his worth on the field and championing equality in the sport. Throughout his career, he was outspoken and active in his support of opportunities for black players and aspiring youngsters including the formation of Major League Baseball’s Urban Youth Academies. Ultimately, Morgan believed that his career and life proved the potential that everyone could have in America.
Memorial service details have not been determined at this time. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a gift in memory of Joe Morgan to the University of California, San Francisco supporting Leukemia research. To make a gift, visit giving.ucsf.edu, or send a donation payable to “UCSF Foundation” to UCSF Foundation, PO Box 45339, San Francisco, CA 94145.
Morgan’s family requests privacy in this difficult time.