This was a dream weekend for any long time fans of the Cincinnati Reds. In addition to the Reds honoring Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan with a statue outside of the Great American Ballpark, which was obviously the featured event, the weekend also marked a very rare occasion where Cincinnati's Great Eight from their 1975 and 1976 World Series teams were together on the same field.
Yes, even Pete Rose was granted permission by Major League Baseball to attend, which obviously meant a lot to to Morgan and the other members of the group.
''I want to thank Commissioner Bud Selig for allowing us to have the 'Great Eight' on the field last night,'' Morgan said Saturday before the bronze sculpture - which depicts him just starting to steal a base - was unveiled near the main gates at the northwest corner of the ballpark complex. ''It's an unbelievable experience to be with all of my teammates.''
In a cool moment following Friday's Reds win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, all eight members were introduced to the crowd and took their old positions in the field. They all returned on Saturday and stood in support of Morgan as his statue located at the Great American Ballpark's front entrance was unveiled to the gathered crowd. It was an overwhelming emotional moment for Morgan, who admitted, almost directly to teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, that he didn't think there was a greater honor than getting into Cooperstown.
“Johnny said it was the biggest honor that he had ever received,” said Morgan remembering when Bench’s statue was unveiled in September of 2011. “And I was sitting there and I started feeling my Hall of Fame ring and I didn’t kind understand it at the time because I was thinking that the ultimate goal of every player who has ever played this game is to get to Cooperstown and that is what I felt that day.
“Well, you know what Johnny? You were right,” he said looking at Bench. “Today is a better day.”
Fittingly, the statue depicts Morgan stealing second base — his home away from home — and that was one-hundred percent the idea of the man who created it.
Sculptor Tom Tsuchiya, who has designed all of the statues at GABP – Morgan, Bench, Ted Kluszewski, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall and Frank Robinson – said he was inspired to feature Morgan that way while watching DVDs of the 1975 World Series.
“Every time Joe got on first base, the TV broadcast would change from full screen to a split screen. One half would show the pitcher and the batter and the other would just show Joe. It would showcase Joe getting ready to steal a base,” Tsuchiya said. “There would be this crazy long leadoff, you could parallel park a Lincoln Continental in there.”
How cool is that?
After the ceremony outside the stadium wrapped up, Morgan was honored again inside where he threw out the game's ceremonial first pitch to Bench. That put a nice little bow on the festivities, but you can bet Morgan and Reds fans won't soon forget this weekend.
Here's a look back, courtesy of MLB.com.
Congratulations to Morgan and the Reds.