* Former Blue Jays right-hander and Hall of Fame candidate Jack Morris will replace Alan Ashby, who headed home to Houston, in the Blue Jays radio booth this season alongside Jerry Howarth and Mike Wilner. .... 2012 Most Influential Canadians 2012 All-Canadian Team 2012 All-Canadian stats
By Bob Elliott
There will be plenty of introductions this month in Dunedin.
That’s to be expected since Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and his staff brought in 15 new players, a new/old manager in John Gibbons and three new coaches.
Another new face will be in the clubhouse.
“I’ll be there in front of the locker saying ‘Hi, my name’s Jack, any questions on what was said on the broadcast?’” said Jack Morris, the former Jays right-hander, before the club’s annual state of the union address at the Rogers Centre.
Morris replaces popular radio analyst Alan Ashby, who decided to head home to Houston to work for the Astros after the 2012 season. He joins Jerry Howarth and Mike Wilner in the booth and will fill in on TV broadcasts.
For 10 seasons Morris, owner of four World Series, including 1992-93 with the Jays, was in the Minnesota Twins booth, before working MLB.TV last year.
He has a reputation as a strait talker.
“I’ve been in their shoes, that’s part of it, I have credibility,” Morris said. “I have had my performance assessed before. You can’t predict what will happen. Hey if I stunk, I said I stunk. Next time I’ll try to do better.
“I was bad when it came to putting too much pressure on myself.”
Problem is, not every all-conference, all-state, all-all, major leaguer enjoys hearing that.
Especially from the home radio booth.
Morris’ Jays debut came opening day in 1992 at his old stomping grounds in Tiger Stadium. He took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
Cecil Fielder went deep on a 3-1 pitch and Mickey Tettleton bounced out. Manager Cito Gaston made a mound visit with Tony Phillips due up, telling his $5 million US man he’d thrown 121 pitches.
Morris said two words “Two outs,‘’ as in two to go.
Phillips flew out and after Kelly Gruber couldn’t chase down a Rob Deer foul pop, Deer hit a solo homer.
Morris retired Travis Fryman on a grounder for his 165th complete game.
Only 142 pitches in meat locker weather.
Duane Ward warmed up three times, Tom Henke twice, David Wells and Bob MacDonald once each.
“Cito or Tom Kelly (Twins) were never afraid to come get me,” said Morris. “Sparky Anderson (Tigers) was. He’d say ‘it’s your game.’ He seldom came and got me. As a result of that I lost some games.”
Could Morris be like Don Sutton was when he broadcasting Atlanta Braves games? Hall of Famer Sutton was often credited -- in whispers -- with fixing the few bumps in the road Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz experienced.
“I’d be more than happy to help out, what ever Alex wants,” said Morris, who can tell a story and is quick.
When R.A. Dickey’s name came up Morris mentioned how he used to tell knuckleballer Charlie Hough how he could pitch until he was 45, with a cigarette in his mouth and still have success.
Hough said “they won’t let me take my smokes to the mound.”
Years ago we saw broadcaster Tom Paciorek tell Morris “I remember a night in Seattle you tipped your pitches the whole game -- we knew what was coming on every pitch.”
Morris shot back “I remember. Still pitched a shut out.”
Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez recalled a night a few years back Morris and he stood behind the batting cage and looked at the empty Rogers Centre seats.
“I thought maybe a golf match was going on, there were maybe 20,000 fans here for the game,” Morris said. “When I was here in 1992-93, every day was an event.”
Morris went 21-6 with a 4.04 ERA making 34 starts for the 1992 Jays. The next year he was 7-12 with a 6.19 ERA in 27 starts. They were the Jays who drew four million a year.
After winning a Series with the 1984 Tigers and the 1991 Twins, Paul Beeston and Pat Gillick signed Morris.
“I made an effort here to show writers that I was more human,” said Morris.
When Morris finalized his deal in Toronto Dec. 18, 1991, Beeston took Morris and his group to celebrate at a downtown Toronto restaurant.
“Paul raised a glass of champagne and said ‘here’s to Jack, the newest Blue Jay ... who will never, ever know how much I was really willing to give him.”
There wasn’t any toasting planned Tuesday, but if there was ...
“I’d probably say, here’s to Paul,” said Morris with a laugh, “he’ll never know how much cheaper he could have signed me for."
* * *
Former Blue Jays Robbie Alomar and Pat Gillick were inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2011.
This July broadcaster Shirley Cheek will accept the Ford C. Frick award on behalf of her late husband Tom Cheek.
And will the Jays trend continue next year?
Could new Jays broadcaster Morris be there?
Morris was named on 67.7% of voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America ballots, 42 votes shy of induction, and next January is his 15th and final year on the ballot.
Next year starters Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina further clutter the voting as they appear for the first time.
“No one intimidates me,” said Morris. “I think everyone in the Hall of Fame thinks that way.”
In 2010, Morris had 52.3%, rose to 53.5 and his 13th year made a major breakthrough, being named on 66.7%, reaching a historically significant plateau.
All but one player who attained the 60% was elected, either by the writers or the post-writer committees. The lone exception was Gil Hodges.
I know I’ll vote for Morris, might as well go 15-for-15.