Did you know? Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan apprenticed under legendary Nellie Fox

Joe Morgan was awesome because, well, you don’t win the National League MVP award in 1975 and ‘76 like he did while playing for the Reds’ World Series championship teams unless you’re fantastic.

Yet at 5-feet-7, he wasn’t the first short and superb second baseman.

As the Bonham, Texas, native was breaking into Major League Baseball, he served as an understudy to Houston Colt 45’s second baseman Nellie Fox, then a fellow future Hall of Famer who was but 5-9.

Before entering the Hall of Fame in 1990, Morgan grew up idolizing Fox.

“He taught me my rookie year,” he once recalled. “He taught me in one year what it takes most players five years to learn. He told me I had twice as much ability as he had. He taught me mental sides of baseball I’ll never forget.”

Per a 1990 Chicago Tribune article, Morgan was aware when he broke into MLB, that some veterans, far from helping rookies, went out of their way to snub them.

“That`s why it was important to me that when I finally met him he was so good to me,” said Morgan. “He had always been my idol.”

Fox and Morgan were similar in ways beyond their heighth.

Both made most of their baseball bones with their second MLB teams, Fox making 12 American League All-Star teams while with the White Sox after being traded from the Philadelphia Athletics in 1950. He was AL MVP in 1959.

Morgan made eight NL All-Star teams while with the Reds after being traded from Houston (by then the Astros) in 1971. Joe was twice an All-Star while with Houston.

Both played a long time: Fox went from 1947-’65, 19 seasons. Morgan went from ‘63-’84, 22 seasons.

In their first season as teammates in Houston, 1964, Fox played 133 games and Morgan just 10.

The next season, Morgan played in 157 games and was runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .271 with 14 home runs, 40 RBI and 20 stolen bases.

Fox played in 21 games, often pinch-hitting, and retired in the middle of the 1965 season and moved into coaching.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, posthumously.

Morgan won four Gold Glove awards, and Fox three while teaming much of his career with White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio.

The two were different, one black and one white, and Morgan hit for power (268 career home runs) where Fox (35) rarely did. Nellie wasn’t especially dangerous as a base runner (76 career stolen bases, caught 80 times), either, and Joe was lethal ( 689 stolen bases, caught 162 times).

Shortly after Morgan won his first MVP award, Fox died in 1975 after being hospitalized due to complications from skin and lymphatic cancer. He was 47.

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