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:
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.)
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.
[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?