Baseball BeatSeptember 05, 2006
Back to School
By Rich Lederer

If Labor Day has come and gone, it means only one thing for families with children. It's time to go back to school. Today and tomorrow will bring in the school year in many locales around the country.

My family's favorite "Back to School" story involves younger brother Gary. The following paragraph is excerpted from a column in the Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram in 1969:

FARMED OUT: George Lederer covered the Dodgers for the Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram from the time the team moved West until this season, when he moved to the Angels as director of promotions and public relations. It's understandable that his family has become baseball oriented. But Lederer was slightly shocked this past week when son Gary, 7, returned home from his first day in second grade and said: "Guess what? I've been traded." Upon further questioning, it was discovered Gary had been moved from the room in which he had been originally assigned to another room. Asked if the youngster had threatened to retire, Lederer replied: "He's been threatening to do that since kindergarten."

Gary turns 44 next week. Happy Birthday, Gary!

* * * * *

Speaking of going back to school, isn't there some way we could all chip in so ESPN's Joe Morgan would do just that? Well, I guess it wouldn't be going *back* to school in his case as I doubt he ever took any courses in broadcasting. You play 22 seasons in the big leagues and they just wind you up, give you a microphone, and let you have at it. I mean, Li'l Joe knows it all. If you don't think so, just ask him. Or maybe listen in to the following exchange between Morgan and play-by-play announcer Jon Miller in the Sunday night telecast of the Los Angeles Angels-Detroit Tigers game. It is vintage Morgan with Miller doing his best straight-man performance. (Thanks to my older brother Tom for transcribing it.)

Miller begins the seventh inning in full tease mode, setting up his sidekick:

Jon Miller: Back at Comerica Park in Detroit. Jon Miller, Joe Morgan, Bonnie Bernstein with you. 2-1 the Angels lead as we head into the late innings as Joel Zumaya, the young flame-throwing right hander comes into the game. And, Joe, you know, you were telling me all about this research you were doing, picking up all the background info and what not. And you told me there was like a huge event when Zumaya came into a game. So, we were all set. [Morgan chuckles] I had the camera on the gate and everything. It was like we were the only ones in the park who knew he was coming in.

Joe Morgan: They didn't know he was coming.

Miller: They were running a commercial on the jumbo screen out there.

Morgan: They were listening to our interview with Leyland and he said he wanted one more from Ledezma.

[Meanwhile, Zumaya has thrown two fastballs, the first outside and the second on the outside corner. Miller then gets around to introducing Angels batter Erick Aybar as the third pitch creates a moderate, but audible, reaction from the crowd. To this point, there have been no radar readings on the ESPN graphics.]

Morgan: I guess they're saying he must have been close to 100. They're watching a radar gun on the scoreboard, I presume.

Miller: They listed it at 101, Joe. What happened to our radar gun? Did you forget to pack it?

[As Zumaya's fourth pitch is thrown far outside, the camera goes to the scoreboard display of the radar gun, showing 99.]

Morgan: Yeah, but I would trust mine better than I would the stadium's because they have a tendency to want to hype their players.

Miller: So, you think, what, he was only throwing 75?

Morgan: No, I don't think he was throwing 101. Maybe 100.

Miller: heh, heh, heh, heh

[The fifth pitch to Aybar is a strike as the count goes to three and two. For the first time, the ESPN graphic shows a radar reading: 99.]

[Speaking over each other:]

Miller: Here we go. We're getting 99.

Morgan: 99, see.

[The camera shows the scoreboard radar: 99.]

Miller: Now, they said 99 as well.

Morgan: OK.

[Miller briefly describes the action as the sixth pitch is thrown. Then Aybar swings and misses.]

Miller: 98 and out!

Morgan: One more thing. When the ball's down, it's not going to be as hard as when it's up. The high fastball is when you'll get the best reading. That was a good low fastball. This is more effective, but, see, it's down. When the pitch is down, you get more movement, yet you get less speed.

Miller: See, that looked like 98 to me. That got there pretty quickly.

[Jose Molina steps up, accompanied by some general commentary.]

Morgan: That's that old saying, Jon. I love hitting fastballs, but I like ice cream, too, but I don't like a gallon at a time. That's a little too much speed on the fastball.

Miller: But I've seen you - I've seen you eat a gallon of ice cream.

Morgan: hah, hah, hah, hah

[As Molina grounds to first base, the play is described and they go to a video review of Tigers starter Wilfedo Ledezma's performance. Reggie Willits steps into the box.]

Miller: [finishing up about Ledezma] . . . great change up, around 84, 85, 86 miles per hour. Now, here's a guy throwing 100.

[The first pitch to Willits registers 101 on the ESPN radar.]

Miller: 101. Now, we got him at 101, Joe.

[Scoreboard shows 101.]

Morgan: I would love . . . That can't be 101, right there, that last pitch. I'm just gonna tell you that.

Miller: Scoreboard got it . . .

Morgan: [talking over Miller] I don't care.

Miller: . . . we got it.

Morgan: That wasn't a 100 miles per hour fastball. I'd love to see Gary Sheffield hook up with him once just to see him swing.

[Second pitch to Willits is 100 on ESPN gun. The camera shows a close up of a fan wearing a t-shirt with the likeness of a highway speed limit sign "Zumaya Zone Speed Limit 102 MPH"]

Morgan: Now, there you go. Zumaya zone.

Miller: See, he gets him at 102.

Morgan: Yeah, I don't . . .

Miller: He feels like we're shorting him.

Morgan: Well, I've seen enough pitches to know 100 when I see it and 102.

Miller: When you played, they didn't have radar guns.

[Third pitch shows 103 on ESPN radar.]

Morgan: I've seen 102 and I've seen 100. I know the difference. [The camera is now trained on Miller and Morgan in the booth. Miller is laughing mildly.] As you know, we all know, they have different radar guns. Some of them are faster than others.

Miller: Yeah. [He smiles as the camera zooms in and produces a pronounced raising of his eyebrows.]

Morgan: I mean, I'm not saying he's not throwing 100, but that pitch you said was 101, wasn't 101. That was a sinker.

Miller: I was just reading the radar gun reading.

[Fourth pitch to Willits shows 100 on ESPN radar and is a fly ball to left field.]

Morgan: See, that might have been 100.

Miller: [tongue firmly in cheek] I thought that was only about 98.

[Miller describes the fly ball and the end of the inning.]

Now is that a beaut or what? If Morgan is unlikely to go back to (broadcasting) school, couldn't he at least threaten to retire - just like my brother Gary 37 years ago?

Update: Here is a video of the above conversation.


I couldn't believe how bad Joe was that night, either. If you look at what he's really saying, it's one more rant against technology. Joe is the epiome of the baseball-luddite. Consider this: the difference in the time it takes a 101 mph fastball and a 99 mph fastball to get to home is just .0008 seconds. I don't care how much baseball Joe or anyone else played, they can't tell that from the vantage point of a pressbox.

Joe Morgan and Jon Miller are a fine broadcast tandem. When I lived in Nepal for 11 years I watched scores of videotaped games they broadcast. Here in Southern California I don't see much of JM & JM on the telly because I am at the games in person. Most of my Morgan/Miller watching now occurs in October. The one time I recall Joe Morgan being dead wrong was his criticism of the qualification for winning a league batting title. Morgan said that he disapproved of adding oh-fors to a player under the minimum plate appearances to get him up to 502. If said player was still in the lead he would qualify to win the batting title. If the league leader is 10 at bats short, then has 10 hitless at bats added to his total, and he is still leading the league, by crikey he should be declared the batting champion. Yes, Joe Morgan can be wrong. Criticizing 101 and 102 mph speed gun readings is fair game. You think Joel Zumaya has a better fastball than Nolan Ryan? If so, you probably own some of that zoom zoom zoom car stock.

ah, He does have a better fastball then Nolan Ryan. He is not as good of a pitcher as Ryan.....yet. Zumaya is the Real deal.

Zumaya might have a better fastball than Ryan in his 1st inning. By the 8th or 9th inning the 70's Ryan would have it hands down. We are comparing apples and oranges here: a relief pitcher vs a starting pitcher. I could not resist the zoom zoom zoom comment because Mazdas are made in Hiroshima, not in Detroit.

It's bad enough that he thinks his eyes are better than statisitcs. He's not a scout, but he has enough experience to see stuff as to why a guy is struggling, for example. Still its arrogant for him to say his scouts' eyes negate statistical evidence, such as claiming that Derrin Erstad was the spark plug that made the Angles go in 2002. But the notion that his eyes are better than two radar guns that corraborate each other by one or two MPH goes beyond arrogance. It's egomaniacal. I really think he needs to get help.

Thank you thank you thank you for that transcript!

P.S. Someone should direct Morgan to THIS LINK:
I think it would put him to rest.

"Did you know that Joe Morgan was once clocked with the fastest runaway ego ever?"

Joe Morgan was once falsely arrested for wearing a suit and tie at Los Angeles International Airport. Morgan won a lawsuit for $450,000 from LAX. Morgan is a winner, as a player and an announcer. By all means Morgan is qualified to be a scout. With the exception of Vin Scully I would rather listen to the Jon Miller/Joe Morgan combination than any other announcers out there.
I lived in Nepal for eleven years and purchased about 70 baseball game videotapes a year from Pontel (a European distributor which has a license from MLB). I watched much more baseball on television (via videotape) in Nepal than here in the USA. Over the past five years I have averaged attending 80 baseball games a year. I do not have the time to watch baseball on the telly when I am at the game in person. Morgan and Miller were fine last October. I seriously doubt that they have gone downhill since then.

He's one of the most egomaniacal, self-righteous, and stubbornly ignorant men to ever cover the game. He believes the most important metric for pitchers is Win-Loss record. For hitters? RBI and Runs Scored, naturally. Hell, he spent years believing Billy Beane wrote "Moneyball."

Michael Lewis (the actual author of "Moneyball") famously said of him, "As the governor of Louisiana once said, the only way Joe Morgan can lose his job is if he got caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. Short of that kind of thing, there is no level of stupidity that he could express on ESPN that would get him canned, because he's Joe Morgan. What are you going to do about it?"

And if you've never stopped by you absolutely should; it's both hilarious and hopelessly frustrating at the same time.

Joe Morgan was once falsely arrested for wearing a suit and tie at Los Angeles International Airport. Morgan won a lawsuit for $450,000 from LAX.

What does that have to do with whether Morgan is or isn't a capable announcer?

No one that I know of is critical of Miller. He does an excellent job of calling the action and has a sense of humor to boot. Wish I could say the same for Morgan, who is full of himself and nothing more than a knowitall.

"Joe Morgan was once falsely arrested for wearing a suit and tie at Los Angeles International Airport. Morgan won a lawsuit for $450,000 from LAX."

Beyond irrelevant, this is nonsense. One cannot legally wear a suit and tie at LAX? Joe Morgan was arrested for violating this law? Yet he really wasn't wearing a suit and tie?

I loved Joe Morgan the ball player. He's probably a fine human being. I simply can't stand to listen to him or one more story about The Big Red Machine.

As an Angels fan, the thing about Joe's commentating that irritated me most in that game was not the above conversation, which was actually kind of funny, but Morgan's almost random and incoherent bashing of the Angels offense. He talked at length about how the Angels needed an additional bat. OK, fine so far. But as evidence for this, he talks about how they got rid of Jose Guillen and let Troy Glaus go after 2004, and how that lost the Angels some 250 RBIs which they have yet to replace. How he arrived at that number mistifies me, as that year Glaus and Guillen combined for 146 RBI. He might be referring to Guillen's and Glaus' potential numbers had Glaus not been injured most of the year, but why would the Angels feel obliged to replace production they never recieved? He goes on to say that the failure to replace that total is why we are not winning our division this year, which would be fine if he bothered to mention how we managed to win the division last year without either player. Throughout his tirade, he ignores the presence and production of Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis, whom we got in trade for Guillen. His attitude suggested he has some kind of axe to grind, but search me if I can figure out what it is. But at any rate, if you're going to analyze a team's problems like that, the least you can do is provide accurate information, and Joe's refusal to do so made the broadcast into a form of chinese water torture.

If Joe Morgan had been wearing bluejeans and a t-shirt at LAX he would not have been arrested. Seeing Morgan's expensive suit, the policeman assumed that Joe had a connection with a Columbian drug cartel. Perhaps Morgan antagonized the policeman by saying "you don't have enough at bats to qualify for the batting title." Morgan did collect $450,000 from the LAPD for this false arrest. The policeman deserved to be fired. Hopefully the policeman did not apply for a job as a drug sniffer.

High radar gun readings are a pet peeve of Joe Morgan's. Jon Miller and Morgan have had this conversation in previous games long before Joel Zumaya was in the big leagues.

Growing up I fell for Nolan Ryan seeing his record in Guiness for throwing the fastest at 100.9 MPH (clocked by an aerospace company as a promotion, I believe it was in the 7th or 8th to support Yetijuice). Now having the radar reading on every pitch is a distraction except for guys like Zumaya or catching speed differences.

I watched the broadcast as it happened and could not believe that Morgan was brassy enough to say he could tell the difference between 100 and 102.

One point he did make is that low pitches tend to be "slower" than high pitches. On one low, outside pitch the ESPN gun popped up at 103. If he had commented that 103 cannot be right for a low pitch, I might have been convinced he had a point.

In a nutshell, I like listening to Joe and Jon until Joe gets on a soapbox with nothing but ex big leaguer as proof. Loved Joe as a player, love Joe's player stories (usually), hate his personal opinion on objective subjects.

According to Dan Hafner in his L.A. Times "Ryan is Caught Speeding: 100.8 M.P.H." article about the September 7th, 1974 Chicago White Sox @ California Angels game Nolan Ryan's fastest pitch was in the 9th inning. It was on the second pitch to third baseman Lee Richard, who led off the 9th with a walk. Ryan had a complete game 3-1 victory, allowing 6 hits, walking 7, and striking out 9. Ryan's fastest pitch before the 9th inning was 98.8 mph in the 4th inning. The speed gun (a "coherent infrared radar" in the article) was made by Rockwell International.

In the first paragraph Hafner writes "He had not thrown a ball as fast as he did when he was timed at 100.9 miles per hour on Aug. 20, a clocking that wasn't revealed until Saturday night."

"I haven't pitched well," said Ryan, "since the night I struck out 19 against Detroit. That was the night they timed me at 100.9. They had a narrow strike range that night and I may have thrown even faster." On August 20th, 1974 Ryan shutout Detroit 1-0 in 11 innings in Anaheim. Ryan allowed 4 hits and 5 walks while striking out 19.

I was at the September 7th, 1974 White Sox @ Angels game. My memory was that the 100.9 mph pitch was in that game. It actually occurred 18 days earlier. It pays to keep the newspaper clippings.

So Joe Morgan can tell the diff on speeds up to 1 MPH from 50 feet away...why, even Ultra-Boy of the Legion of Super Heroes couldn't do that! Seeing that Ultra-Boy could only use one super power at a time...whereas Super Joe has the ability to use his Super-Speed-Differential Power AND his Super-Ignore-Other's-Viewpoints Power

Like WOW!...move over Krypto!

I watched this game live and I was startled at the smugness with which Joe Morgan discounted the hardest thrower in the big leagues. Zumaya was regularly hitting 99 & even 100 as a 20 year old in AA. Joel has been at 101 all season. For Joe to discount Zumaya's history is astounding. If he doesn't believe the radar gun at Comerica or ESPN's own gun, what about the radar guns on the road which show the same readings.

Well, I find the Miller/Morgan to be the most enjoyable and entertaining baseball telecasts ever. I don't care if Joe does mispronounce some things here and there (since I'm a Texan, too). It is entertaining.