LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The call came, finally, after all these years of waiting.
Jack Morris answered. It was the Hall of Fame. He was in. He was really in. Years and years of being voted on, evaluated and argued about — and he was actually in.
He was told one important thing by the Hall of Fame. He couldn’t tell anyone. Not for the next 30 minutes, which is when the news would go public.
“I sat there for ten minutes,” Morris recounted Monday, the first time he was introduced publicly as a Hall of Famer. “And I said, I’ve waited for 18 years. I’m going to call my wife. So I did.”
Just then, as Morris was telling the story in front of a few hundred people at the MLB Winter Meetings, he broke down crying. He’d been emotional since the beginning of the press conference and this was the moment he cracked the most.
This was hard-nosed Jack Morris — the guy who is most famous for throwing a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the World Series; you gotta be mentally tough for that — crumbling when given the news he’d hoped for so long.
“Calling my family was the most emotional part,” Morris continued. “I got done with all my phone calls to my family members, and Mike [Siano, his friend from MLB.com] at the door. And when he walked in, he saw what a wreck I was, and I said, ‘OK, now that’s over with. Now I’m done with that.’ And here I go again, and I’m going to do this a lot. I know it. But I’ll get through it.”
Nothing wrong with a good cry, Jack, especially when you’re getting the long-awaited call to Cooperstown. Morris — like old teammate Alan Trammell — was elected Sunday by the Hall of Fame’s Modern Era committee, which gives a second chance to players who didn’t get in on the baseball writers’ ballot. Morris was on the writers’ ballot 15 years and was often a very contentious case.
Morris, who is always outspoken, could have used his Hall of Fame press conference to rub it in the faces of the all the people who said he didn’t belong. Instead, he was much more tender than what he often see from him.
“The one thing I can say is that after failing on the writers’ ballot, reality sinks in,” Morris said. “For me, it was a wonderful learning time because I had to remind myself of how much I am grateful for without the Hall of Fame.”
This is hard-nosed, old-school Jack Morris? It is, when he gets into the Hall of Fame.
“It’s a wonderful world” Morris said. “There’s a lot of love, a lot of people that were behind both of us. I was behind him the whole time. There’s a lot of guys that haven’t got in yet that I’m still behind. Like Alan, I want to acknowledge not only these guys that helped us be here today but the guys who didn’t make it because we both feel and understand what they go through.
“I was determined to tell the world after this ballot that, if I didn’t make it, maybe I have to start accepting the fact that I was that guy really close because somewhere along the line, there’s going to be those guys. And I was okay with it. I came to peace with it.”
But being “at peace with it” very easily turned into the opposite for Morris.
“I’m overwhelmed. I’m grateful. I’m honored and very humbled,” he said. “But I think the time has taught me more valuable lessons than that itself, and if I can’t share it with people that care, I’m an island. I want to share it.”
As he should.
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