Griffin: One-on-one with Joe Morgan
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is currently a national broadcaster with ESPN and has no aspirations to manage in the big leagues. He spoke to The Star on the off day of the NL Division Series in Philadelphia regarding Cito Gaston's place in history and baseball's disappointing record, still, when it comes to minority hiring.
RICHARD GRIFFIN: I spent the last weekend with Cito Gaston in Minneapolis and it seems to me he underestimates his importance to African-Americans progress in baseball being the first to win a World Series and then back-to-back. He downplays it. Do you think he underestimates his place in history.
JOE MORGAN: Cito was only reacting to the way that he's been treated. He's been treated like it's an underachievement and there's nothing there. I've never seen a manager win two world championships in a row and everybody gets the credit but him. That's why when he won those two championsips he didn't get the credit. Pat Gillick got the credit and the organization got the credit. He didn't get the credit. But I remember, they were floundering until he took over as manager and then they became world champions after he he became manager. I don't think he underestimates it. He's just reacting to the way he was treated and he's being treated like he doesn't have any importance to them winning. He's reacting like he's not important.
Even now, he's retiring and Bobby Cox is retiring and Cito Gaston won more championships than he did, World Series championships. But Cito is retiring and it was no big deal. So he's been treated that way his entire life, his managing career. That's why he doesn't want to make a big deal out of it since nobody else did.
RG: To that point, he's talked about Tony LaRussa and a man who didn't match his World Series total until the Cardinals won in 2006. Cito's never been high in manager of the year voting which means the media thought the same way.
JM: Well that's how it started. It was Pat Gillick's team. It wasn't Cito Gaston. Again, before he took over, look where they were. They turned it around and he still didn't get the credit. I saw a guy, Jim Tracy, take over mid-season last year and (Colorado) won and he won manager of the year and he didn't win the World Series. To me Cito's only reacting to the way he's been treated. He doesn't want to be tooting his own horn because nobody else did.
RG: When he took the time off, when he was fired by the Jays at the end of 1997, he still wanted to manage at that point. He was interviewed a couple of time and then he was a finalist with Ozzie Guillen in Chicago with the White Sox then after that he took the attitude that he was like 'What do I want to interview for. I've got two World Series rings. I've got four division championships', so he was waiting for a team to come to him, which the Jays eventually did (in 2008). Hal McRae ended up doing the same thing refusing interviews. Even though it's a good thing that Jerry Reindsdorf and Bud Selig and those guys want minorities interviewed do you think it was counter-productive?
JM: I don't know because I don't go for interviews so I don't know what goes on in those interviews like guys who go in for those interviews, like Cito, like McRae, like guys who've been in there. It just doesn't add up for a guy that's won two World Series, got fired and he didn't get a chance to win another one. I mean Sparky (Anderson), who was a great manager. He won two world championships in Cincinnati and then he went right somewhere else. Tony LaRussa got fired and he went somewhere else. A lot of guys who've been fired went somewhere else. He hasn't been treated fairly by the system or baseball itself, so it's just the way it is.
RG: Frank Robinson was the first, there's Dusty has been there and Cito's won the World Series, can you speak for his importance then and put it in perspective for African-American managers, like Ron Washington coming up, what Cito did.
JM: I mean, they should see what he did. You don't just come into baseball one day and you're here. You had to see what's been going on all these years. You had to see that African-American guys were trying to get jobs and couldn't get them. You have to see that every one of the guys you mentioned, Don Baylor, Cito Gaston, Frank Robinson, Dusty Baker. You figure their importance. They were important all the time. Even Dusty won. He got to the World Series with the Giants. He won two or three managers of the year. He couldn't get a job for a few years, while other guys were just moving around. So, look, it is definitely better, because there are some African-American managers now. But it's not easier. It's better, but not easier.
RG: It sounds like you either wanted to manage...
JM: No, no. I never wanted to manage. I got offers, but I never wanted to manage. No, I'm just talking about the guys that wanted to manage, what I've seen from afar. I never actually wanted to manage. I was asked to manage a couple of times, actually. But that wasn't something that I wanted to do at the time.
RG: There's an awful lot of openings this year. Are you....
JM: No, no.
RG: No, not you. Are you looking at it and saying that if there's not a proportionate number of minorities...
JM: Well, there's never been. I don't know what you're...You're not looking at the history of this. Even last year when there were several manager openings available, options open, how many got 'em. Or the year before. I mean there's managers fired every year. There's going to be 11 or something like that openings. I've seen all the candidates out there right now. Everybody, there may be one African-American guy, or two. Even if those two get it, it's still not going to be proportionate.
RG: I asked Cito on the wekend, I said from 1947-79 the first half of the time elapsed since Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier, and '79 to now, has there been proportional improvement for African-Americans. He said no.
JM: He shouldn't have to answer that for you. You should be able to look. See how many openings there's been and how many African-Americans got those openings. Like I said, there's going to be 11 openings and I only saw two African-American names on that list. Both of them aren't going to get a job and probably neither of them.
RG: Jerry (Manuel) is gone in New York. Cito's gone.