Monday, June 25, 2012

#387 - Rich Morales

Lots of “lasts” for this post. This is the last Topps card for Rich Morales as a player. It is also the last solo Washington Nat’l card of the set. Shortly after this card went to print it became apparent that the Padres were not moving to DC and Topps reverted to the regular Padres cards including re-issuing the older Nat’l ones as Padres. (There will be one more Washington Nat’l designation but it is a multi-player card.) Rich here is in the midst of his first NL season after a bunch with the White Sox. He was acquired early in the season to help salve some infield turmoil in San Diego. Incumbent second baseman Dave Campbell was on the way out and newby Derrell Thomas had to play a bunch at shortstop. Also heralded rookie Dave Hilton pretty much bombed so Rich ended up getting the most starting time at second. Defensively he delivered with only five errors in 81 games. It should have been a good thing for him but that .164 average sure didn’t make anyone happy. He would barely play in ’74 and after the season he was released.

Rich Morales grew up in the Pacifica region of California and after high school attended the College of San Mateo, a JUCO school from which he graduated in ’62. He was signed early the following year by the White Sox and then put in a couple seasons in A ball to let his fielding come around, though his first season he did have 69 RBI’s. In ’65 he moved to Double A where his errors dropped to half what they were his first season. While he was a light hitter (.215 that year) he put the ball in play and was on a good run to the top. That got arrested in ’66 when he broke his leg early in the season and missed pretty much the rest of the year. But he returned to post decent numbers in a ’67 split between Double and Triple A and then peaked offensively in a ’68 spent exclusively at the higher level: .264 with 24 doubles and 58 RBI’s. In both ’67 and ’68 he got short looks up top. After another good start in Triple A in ’69 he was called up to Chicago.
The ’69 White Sox were sort of a hot mess. The Sox were very dependent on their pitching for success and their two aces – Joe Horlen and Gary Peters – were in decline modes. They only had two real offensive threats in young guys Carlos May and Bill Melton. And their defense was wrecked by injuries. When Morales came up into that morass he was placed at second even though he had been pretty much exclusively a shortstop until then. He did pretty well defensively and that coupled with his new ability to play anywhere in the infield was what kept him on the roster the next bunch of years. ’70 pretty much mirrored ’69 as Rich spent equal time at shortstop and third. In ’71 and ’72 he spent most of his time at short where the latter year he was the de facto starter. Then in ’73 the Sox had a new hot rookie in Bucky Dent to take over shortstop, Jorge Orta and Bill Melton were pretty much entrenched at second and third and so when San Diego came calling for infield help Rich got sold to the Padres. After his short tenure there he was done. He finished with a .195 average.

Rich trolled around a bit as a coach in the minors after playing. In ’79 he managed in the Oakland system and from ’80 to ’82 in the Cubs’ one. From ’83 to ’85 he was a scout for the White Sox and he then came up top as the Braves bullpen coach from ’86 to ’87. Then it was back to managing: in the Seattle system (’88 to ’90) and then the independent Pioneer League (’91). By then his lifetime record was 447-449. He also coached in that league in ’92 and ’94 and then sort of goes missing. At some point during the Nineties it appears he returned to coach in his old Pacifica hood at Terra Nova High School which after a couple years off he was doing as recently as last year. Some sites also have him working as a scout for the Orioles since 2006 but I think that may be a younger guy with the same name.

Rich’s props are all for his defense; no surprise there. He also enjoyed gardening on his ’73 card so at least he was consistent in his hobbies.

This is a short post so it’s a good one to catch up on some music news. On June 21, 1973 the group Bread performed their last gig, a concert at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. The group was big with the mellow hits like “Make It With You” and split up because its two song writers were in disagreement about which songs should be released as singles. On the 23rd new group 10CC scored a Number One in the UK with its first single “Rubber Bullets.” The group, whose biggest hit would be “I’m Not In Love” in a couple years, actually had a hit in ’70 under the name Hotlegs called “Neanderthal Man.” And on June 22, 1974 a new Number One in the UK belonged to Gary Glitter and his “Always Yours.” The song is on YouTube and features Gary and his band parading around in their sequined uniforms. It all looks harmless enough but it gets a little creepy when his future Jerry Sandusky-type habits got revealed.

Let’s get the old guy with the new one through someone who always acted like a kid:

1. Morales and Derrell Thomas ’73 to ’74 Padres;
2. Thomas and Gary Matthews ’75 to ’76 Giants.

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