Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesdays with Morrie

Don't worry; you might be having flashbacks to high school reading assignments reading a post title like that, but this has nothing to do with literary masterpieces by Mitch Albom.

Rather, this post is intended to shine the spotlight on a former Cubs pitcher who had a masterpiece of a run in Chicago - or, at least a pretty nice go of it anyway.

Morrie Steevens (yes, that is how his name is spelled) is the latest addition to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.


To the best of my knowledge, this lovely portrait from TCMA's 1978 nostalgia-based set "The 1960's" is Morrie's only solo appearance on a baseball card.  He shares a space on a multi-player rookie card from 1965 with Dave Bennett, but I prefer cards with only one subject.

The picture was obviously taken at dusk, which makes for some lighting not usually seen on baseball cards - I'm in favor of that.  But, is the a temporary batting cage, backstop or Pirate ship sail in the background?

I know I picked this up from one of my LCS in the last few weeks, but I cannot remember which one (good problem to have, right?) or the circumstances surrounding it.  I'm going to be a blast when I get old.

But, much has been written about the simple beauty of TCMA's releases from the decade of disco, so I'm very happy to have come across it - wherever that might have been.

Steevens, though he's shown here as a Phillie, initially rose through the Cubs system after being signed out of Salem, IL in 1958.  I guess you could call him a local boy, if you consider a 3-hour drive south local.

Morrie as a bright-eyed rookie, wearing the "correct" uniform
image courtesy of tnfoto at ootpdevelopments.com

Morrie got his initial call to the Bigs in 1962 on the strength of his blazing fastball and he certainly made the most of it.  He made 12 appearances, mostly out of the bullpen, split between April and September and was only scored upon in one contest.

However, like many a flame-thrower, he was a little wild - 11 walks in 15 frames with one hit batsmen - and was thusly returned to the minors to refine his control.  

While there, he managed to limit his walks but then ceased missing bats (an ERA near 5 in AAA) and soon found himself shipped to Philly in exchange for another minor-leaguer (who didn't make it).

Steevens earned a couple of more brief cameos in Philadelphia, but they didn't go nearly as well as his brief stint in Chicago, bottoming out with an era over 16 in 1965.  Plus, he got the pleasure of experiencing one of the most infamous collapses in baseball history in 1964, as his Phillies infamously blew the pennant in the last week of the season.

Bullpen issues are often blamed for the choke job, but Morrie only made it into 4 games, so you can't lay much blame on him.

After all that fun, he hung around for a few more years in the bush leagues, but was out of baseball by '67.

 Morrie wasn't the only future/former Cub on that infamous Phillies team - there were 13 total players, plus 2 future coaches and a GM!  The ex-Cub factor strikes again.

Morrie's story is a common one, a really common one at that.  It's too bad that he was never able to capitalize on his initial promise, but there wasn't a lot of success to be had with the Cubs of the early to mid-60's after all.

With that, we close this chapter with his addition to my CATRC - which I'm sure is the absolute highlight of his time spent in professional baseball.  Thanks to TCMA, he gets a spot of his own.

Now, I hope you payed attention while reading this post - there will be a quiz later!

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