The winningest pitcher of the 1980s, Jack Morris was a bulldog workhorse for the Detroit Tigers throughout the decade. A five-time All-Star, Morris ranks high in the career strikeout, wins and innings pitched departments. It wasn’t an uncommon feat for the mustachioed hurler to toss 250 innings per season and toil, adeptly mind you, under the pressures of postseason play.
Originally a fifth round selection by Detroit in 1976, Jack made his Major League debut the following season. Skipper Ralph Houk used Jack predominately out of the bullpen as a rookie in 1978, but when he was inserted into the rotation in 1979, his career took off. In his breakout ’79 season, Morris went 17-7 with a 3.27 ERA. Although he showed that he was a coming star in the American League, Jack didn’t show his pack mule traits until 1980, when he logged 250 innings. That season, Jack was the only Detroit pitcher to exceed 200 innings pitched and 100 strikeouts.
In the strike shortened ’81 campaign, Jack tied for the AL lead in wins with 14. Named to his first All-Star team, he finished second in innings pitched and third in Cy Young Award voting. Jack never won a Cy Young Award but finished in the Top Ten in voting seven times. After a so-so ’82 season, Jack had his greatest year in 1983, leading the AL with 293 innings and 232 strikeouts. The innings-eater deluxe won 20 games on a fine 3.34 ERA.
Morris pitched the Tigers to the World Series in 1984, winning the first of four rings. During the regular season, Jack went 19-11 with 240 innings pitched. In the ALCS, he fashioned a 1.29 ERA against the Royals and then went 2-0 against the Padres in the Fall Classic, winning his first World Series title. 1985 was another fine campaign for Morris, who finished third in strikeouts and had a 3.33 ERA.
A 20-game winner again in 1986, Morris led the junior circuit with six shutouts. The Motown mower of batters whiffed 223 adversaries during the season on a 3.27 ERA. He finished fifth in the strikeout department in ’87 while leading Detroit to another postseason. During the ALCS, Jack fanned seven batters in Game 2 but the Tigers lost to the Twins; it was the only postseason series that a team Jack was on ever lost.
Jack struggled in 1989, missing time to an injury but rebounded in 1990 to lead the AL in complete games. But Jack’s ERA had begun to swell like a snowed-in city dweller in one of Jack London’s stories, so Jack was allowed to test the free agent market in ’91. Leaving Detroit, Jack signed on with his hometown Minnesota Twins and promptly led them to a World Series title. Playing before family and friends, Morris went 18-12 for the Twins of Tom Kelly on a 3.43 ERA. He was a force of nature in October, winning two ALCS games and another two in the World Series. Jack’s masterful extra-inning shutout in Game 7 has gone down as one the greatest pitched games of all-time.
Jack pitched just one year for his hometown’s team before signing with the Blue Jays as a free agent. He enjoyed his last great year by pitching the Blue Jays to a World Series title. Jack led the junior circuit with 21 wins during the regular season and then led World Series participants with a dozen strikeouts, helping bring a title to Canada. Jack’s last two years were unflattering and raised his career ERA up a few points; close to 4.00
W 254/L 186/PCT .577/G 549/CG 175/IP 3,825/H 3,567/BB 1,390/SO 2,478/SHO 28/ERA 3.90