Jack Morris had been summoned to the World Series media room in the Metrodome around 1 a.m. on Oct. 27, 1991. Morris and Atlanta’s young John Smoltz would be the starters in Game 7 later that night, and a handful of sportswriters and a couple of TV cameras were there to chronicle the pitchers’ thoughts.
Most other journalists were frantically trying to meet deadlines or record quotes on Kirby Puckett’s heroics that had kept the Twins alive with an 11-inning victory in Game 6.
When asked for his reaction to getting this Game 7 chance, Morris issued what remains my favorite, spur-of-moment quote in a half-century as a sportswriter.
“In the immortal words of the late, great Marvin Gaye, ‘Let’s get it on,’ ’’ Black Jack said.
Morris next appeared outside the home clubhouse at 4:05 p.m., when he walked down the stairwell to the Twins dugout. He walked down the left field line and took a seat in the temporary stand built for celebrities.
Ten minutes later, he was back in the dugout, sitting in a corner. No one talked to Black Jack. No one dared.
He did some stretching, changed locations, and then headed back up the stairs to the clubhouse.
Morris next was seen around 7 p.m. He prowled the dugout for a while. The band from Eden Prairie High was playing some tunes in left field. At 7:14 p.m., Morris popped from the dugout and headed toward the bullpen to warm up. The band was drowned out by the cheers from the crowd.
Everyone there with a rooting interest in the Twins seemed to be in agreement that there was no one on this planet they would rather see on the Metrodome mound for Game 7.
It was four hours and 10 innings later, when Dan Gladden came home on Gene Larkin’s fly ball over a drawn-in outfield, that the Twins had a 1-0 victory, a second World Series title in five seasons, and Morris had made his one season back home in a Twins uniform a triumph for the ages … 10 scoreless, winning innings.
On Monday, finally, after running out of time on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot, Jack Morris became a Hall of Famer through a vote of a 16-member Modern Baseball Era Committee.
When he is inducted next summer, the plaque will carry a Detroit Tigers cap, the team for whom he won 198 of his 254 games, made 408 of his 527 starts, pitched 3,042 of his 3,824 innings and won his first World Series.
Jack Morris, the pitcher of the ’80s, indeed belongs to the Tigers in bronze, but he belongs to all of Minnesota for the most remarkable clutch performance of his mighty career, and he belongs to St. Paul for the playground and ballfield dirt.
“It is a great day,’’ Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Several close calls. I really liked his chances this time, because there were several players who faced him often on the committee, George [Brett], Dave [Winfield], Robin [Yount], and they were certain of the greatness that Jack offered as a pitcher.
“And to go in with Tram … that has to make it even more special for Jack.’’
Alan Trammell, the Tigers’ terrific shortstop and Morris’ longtime teammate, was second in the voting and also gained Cooperstown approval on the 10-person ballot.
“What I remember about Tram is no matter where I hit the ball and how hard I hit it, he was standing a half-step away, and I was going to be out,’’ Molitor said.
With Morris, the memories go back much further.
“Probably sophomore in high school, Cretin scrimmaging Highland [Park], and this big guy comes in, throwing hard and having no idea where it’s going,’’ Molitor said.
“I was with the Brewers, and Jack is coming in, and someone asks, ‘Anyone know anything about this guy?’ I said, ‘I do, and if he’s still the same, he throws hard and doesn’t know where it’s going.’ And then he hit Sal Bando in the head.’’
Morris’ induction will complete the amazing St. Paul triangle:
David Mark Winfield, St. Paul Central (1969), Hall of Fame inductee 2001; Paul Leo Molitor, Cretin (1974), Hall of Fame inductee 2004; and John Scott Morris, Highland Park (1973), Hall of Fame inductee 2018.
“Winny and I grew up in houses four, five blocks apart,’’ Molitor said. “Jack was 3, 4 miles away in Highland Park. When it really hit home was when we were all on the American League All-Star team at the Metrodome in 1985.
“Wrong side of the river, but that was amazing.’’
It will be even more amazing when Winfield and Molitor (if the Twins approve) are there on the platform in Cooperstown, N.Y., next July 29 to welcome their St. Paul contemporary into baseball’s greatest club.
Detroit’s got the bronze for Jack; St. Paul’s got the dirt.