With the festivities for Tuesday’s All-Star Game underway in the Twin Cities, St. Paul native Jack Morris talked about his five All-Star Game appearances over 11 years.
“I was lucky. I enjoyed my time. I was able to pitch in five All-Star Games, started three of them, and one was right here in Minnesota when I was playing for Detroit [in 1985],” Morris said. “That was a lot of fun, because I got to finally be teammates with Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield, who I grew up watching and playing against my whole life. It was the first time we were ever teammates together.”
Morris acknowledged that same pride will probably be there at Target Field for players such as Glen Perkins and Pat Neshek, who will get to play in an All-Star Game in their home state.
“It was a huge honor, and for me to come home where all my youth baseball was played and to play in front of the Twins fans was great,” Morris said.
Morris also started the 1991 All-Star Game in Toronto, during his lone season with the Twins. Scott Erickson likely would have been selected to start that game, but the Twins righthander, who was 12-3 with a 1.83 ERA at the break, was on the disabled list when the teams were announced and was not selected.
But asked what his biggest All-Star Game moment was, Morris said: “Probably my first one in ’81, the welcome back to baseball after the prolonged strike, and we played in front of 77,000 people in the old Cleveland Stadium. That was a lot of fun, too.”
Morris had very good career numbers in the All-Star Game. He pitched 10⅔ innings, giving up three runs on 14 hits with four walks and eight strikeouts, good for a 2.53 ERA. In three of his five appearances, he went two innings and didn’t give up a run. But the AL went 1-4 in Morris’ five All-Star Games, winning only the 1991 game.
Morris said that no matter how many times he reached the game, he always was excited to be a part of it, and that’s the feeling of most players he played with.
“I think they do [look forward to it],” he said. “There have been a few players over the years that have declined playing in the All-Star Game simply because they felt it was best for them to rest and make a push in the second half for their team. But ultimately I think everybody wants to be recognized during that event and be a part of it and it certainly is an honor, in my opinion.”
Morris added that he believes players truly give their best, with home-field advantage in the World Series going to the winning league in the All-Star Game since 2003.
“Any team that has a chance to have home-field advantage for the postseason, it’s a reason,” he said. “I think players have always played for pride and doing their best. I don’t think anyone goes out there just to go through the motions. You want to represent yourself and your teams as best you can, so I think they’ve always tried to play the best.”
Morris said one of the unique aspects of pitching in the All-Star Game is that pitchers are often throwing to the best-hitting catchers in their own league, and he said he didn’t always want to give away the secrets of his game plan to those types of hitters.
“You know, it’s funny,” he said. “The first time I was in the All-Star Game, Carlton Fisk was my catcher, and here’s a guy that I really did well against my whole career. I was kind of timid to show him my repertoire. I didn’t want him knowing what I pitched and how I threw and how I set up hitters, because I knew he was doing everything he could to pick my brain so he would have a better chance the next time he faced me. Ultimately, you’re teammates for a day, and everything goes away after the game.”
Fisk really didn’t learn too much for Morris, who held him to a career .141 batting average in 64 at-bats.
Morris also said that one of the fun benefits of being an All-Star is the chance to store away some nice pieces of memorabilia from playing with a collection of the best players in baseball. He said he kept baseballs from the games, which every player has to sign, and even bought a mural from the 1985 game.
Vikings sales going strong
Sales of season tickets for the new Vikings stadium are well ahead of schedule. The Vikings had hoped to have $37 million in stadium builders’ licenses for season tickets by the end of this year, but they are already at $51 million in sales and have 13,400 seats committed.
The Vikings originally had 16 total zones of season ticket and licensing options. However, because of the robust sales, they have added a 17th zone, which will go on sale once they finish working through their appointments for the first 16 zones. The best way to have a chance to secure season tickets for the new stadium is to pick up a season ticket package for this season at TCF Bank Stadium.
• Former Gophers safety Brock Vereen recently wrote a story for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback website for Sports Illustrated about his experience at the NFL rookie symposium. “For me, the most exciting part was the final morning when we visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” wrote Vereen, a fourth-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears. “There was no better way to wrap up 72 hours of hearing how to be successful in the NFL than to pay homage to those who were more successful than anyone. Walking through all of the galleries, videos, and busts was all the motivation anyone would need rolling into their first NFL training camp.”
• The Las Vegas bookmakers have Brian Dozier at 12-1 odds to win Monday’s Home Run Derby, while Justin Morneau is the long shot at 15-1. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton is the favorite at 2-1.
• With Lionel Hollins being named coach of the Brooklyn Nets, one would figure that Lionel’s son and former Gophers guard Austin Hollins would get an opportunity to play for the Nets’ summer league team. But Austin, who no doubt was one of the better scorers in the Big Ten, isn’t on any NBA summer league roster.
• One fact I missed in my recent column about Tony Oliva is that the Twins great, a right fielder until his knees caved in on him, remains the only player to win batting titles his first two seasons in the major leagues.
• The word out of Cleveland is the Cavaliers are hesitating to put No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins into a deal for Kevin Love, which means that the Timberwolves would have to have little interest in any package the Cavs could put together. Cleveland’s future draft picks hold much less value now that LeBron James has rejoined the club.