Twins victory song: From Jack to king

Ken Rosenthal

October 28, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

MINNEAPOLIS -- Here's a frightening thought: Jack Morris has two young sons who sound even nastier than him.

"They said they were going to kick me in the butt if I didn't win," the World Series MVP said last night. "They said they'd kick all these guys in the butt."

Lucky the Twins won.

"I guess," Morris said, "we saved a couple of sore butts."

Morris' sons -- Austin, 10, and Erik, 8 -- weren't old enough to appreciate their father's first World Series triumph with Detroit in 1984. But they raced onto the Metrodome field and squeezed him tight after he worked all 10 innings in the Twins' 1-0 victory over the Braves.

It was a perfect sendoff to a glorious Series, a Series that defied our imaginations, a Series that linked the generations. For years people will debate if it was the best of all time. How perfect that Morris is at the center of the argument as the search through history begins.

Morris, 36, is a throwback to an era where pitchers finished what they started -- in a sense, the last angry man. Pitch counts?

Never heard of them. Aches and pains? Never a problem. Relief pitchers? Never should appear in the game.

Last night Morris became the first World Series pitcher to work into extra innings since 1969, when Tom Seaver pitched 10 in Game 4 to defeat the Orioles 2-1. "I guarantee you he would have gone another four or five innings," reserve infielder Al Newman said.

Fortunately it never became an issue, or else we might have witnessed another World Series first: A Game 7 shouting match between pitcher and manager. As it turned out, Morris finished with a seven-hitter, finished 2-0 in three Series starts with a 1.17 ERA.

He held the Braves 0-for-9 with men in scoring position last night, including 0-for-7 in innings two through five. He escaped a second-and-third, none-out jam in the eighth against Atlanta's 3-4-5 hitters. He retired the final seven hitters he faced.

A mere 125 pitches for the night.

A mere 283 innings for the season.

Twins manager Tom Kelly actually tried to remove Morris after the ninth, but with the score tied 0-0, he would have been better off disconnecting the bullpen phone. Later someone asked Kelly what it would have taken to get Morris out of the game. "Probably a shotgun," the manager said.

"I though nine innings was enough," Kelly explained. "What more do you want? What more can you ask? The guy poured his guts out for nine innings. I said, 'That's enough, Jack, you've done more than your share to carry the load.'

"He said, 'TK, I'm fine -- I'm FINE. If I'm not fine, I'd tell you. But I'll go out there and pitch. Save [Rick] Aguilera.' [Pitching coach] Dick Such said, 'He's fine, let him go out there.' I said, 'What the hell, it's just a game, let's go.' "

Just a game? Hardly. It's never that way to Morris, not in early April, and certainly not in late October. He worked on three days rest for the second time in the Series last night. He told Such and Kelly he would have pitched on two days rest in Game 6 if necessary.

As it turned out, Kelly went with Scott Erickson in Game 6. As it turned out, Kirby Puckett's 11th-inning home run ensured a grand finale. "Words from the late, great Marvin Gaye came to mind," Morris said Saturday night on the eve of his masterpiece. "'Let's Get It On.'"

Get it on he did. The way Morris figured it, he was well-rested after working only six innings in Game 4. He left that game with a 2-1 lead, and the Twins lost 3-2. "My bat was getting tired," joked Morris, who was 0-for-2 before getting removed for a pinch-hitter.

He was not required to hit last night, and when Kelly approached after the ninth, "I just flat out told him, 'I'm not losing anything. Those guys down there [in the bullpen] have pitched a lot. We don't have a game tomorrow. Forget the pitch count.' "

Such, the pitching coach, offered a slightly different version. "I think he accepted TK's decision," Such said. "I was down with [Kevin] Tapani and Erickson. They were keeping our chart. He only had thrown 114 pitches. I told those two guys, 'I've got to do something.' I backed up Jack."

Whatever, Morris is now 4-0 lifetime in the Series, 7-1 in the postseason. The Twins signed him to a three-year contract last winter dreaming he'd pitch in a game like last night's. The club was coming off a last-place finish, but Morris, a St. Paul native, was ecstatic to come home.

The contract guarantees him $7 million and through incentives could reach $11 million. He rejected $9.3 million guaranteed from Detroit, where last season he was 15-18 with a 4.51 ERA. This year he was 18-12 with a 3.43 ERA. Lifetime he's 24-5 at the Metrodome.

The Twins wanted a veteran anchor for their staff, and they got the best. There Morris was last night, bounding out of the Minnesota dugout after pinch-hitter Gene Larkin's bases-loaded single in the 10th. Morris held his cap and glove in his right hand and waved Dan Gladden home with his left.

"Come on!" he shouted. "Come on!"

He never removed his warmup jacket.

He was pitching the 11th.

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