Baseball remembers HOF pair Weaver, Musial

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Baseball remembers HOF pair Weaver, Musial

One was born in St. Louis, the other became a star there.

Aside from that, Earl Weaver and Stan Musial were about as different as two Hall of Famers could be.

"Talk about your odd couple," said George Vecsey, the longtime sports columnist for The New York Times who wrote a recent biography of Musial.

Weaver was a 5-foot-6 rabble rouser whose penchant for quarreling with umpires belied a cerebral approach to managing that has stood the test of time. Musial was a humble slugger with a funky batting stance who was beloved by Cardinals fans and respected by pretty much everyone else.

Saturday began with news of Weaver's death at age 82, and by the end of the night Musial had died, too, leaving baseball to reflect on two distinguished careers rich in contrasts.

"Earl was well known for being one of the game's most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal," Commissioner Bud Selig said.

Selig later released a statement after Musial's death at age 92.

"Stan's life embodies baseball's unparalleled history and why this game is the national pastime. As remarkable as Stan the Man' was on the field, he was a true gentleman in life," Selig said.

A three-time MVP and seven-time National League batting champion, Musial helped the Cardinals win three World Series championships in the 1940s. His popularity in St. Louis can be measured by the not one, but two statues that stand in his honor outside Busch Stadium. After his death Saturday, Cardinals of more recent vintage began offering condolences almost immediately.

"Sad to hear about Stan the Man, it's an honor to wear the same uniform," said a message posted on the Twitter account of Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday.

Albert Pujols, who led St. Louis to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011 before leaving as a free agent before last season, offered prayers for Musial's family via Twitter.

"I will cherish my friendship with Stan for as long as I live," said a message posted on Pujols' site. "Rest in Peace."

Weaver was born in St. Louis, but his greatest success came as a manager in Baltimore. He took the Orioles to the World Series four times, winning one title in 1970.

Never a fan of small-ball strategies like bunting and stealing bases, Weaver preferred to wait for a three-run homer, always hoping for a big inning that could break the game open.

"No one managed a ballclub or pitching staff better than Earl," said Davey Johnson, who played under Weaver with the Orioles.

Johnson now manages the Washington Nationals and ran the Orioles from 1996-97.

"He was decades ahead of his time," Johnson said. "Not a game goes by that I don't draw on something Earl did or said. I will miss him every day."

While Musial could let his bat do the talking, Weaver was more than willing to shout to be heard. His salty-tongued arguing with umpires will live on through YouTube, and Orioles programs sold at the old Memorial Stadium frequently featured photos of Weaver squabbling.

Former umpire Don Denkinger remembered a game in which the manager disputed a call with Larry McCoy at the plate.

"Earl tells us, Now I'm gonna show you how stupid you all are.' Earl goes down to first base and ejects the first base umpire. Then he goes to second base and ejects the second base umpire. I'm working third base and now he comes down and ejects me," Denkinger said.

Musial was a quieter type who spent his career far removed from the bright lights of places like New York and Boston. But his hitting exploits were certainly on par with contemporaries Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

"I knew Stan very well. He used to take care of me at All-Star games, 24 of them," Hall of Famer Willie Mays said. "He was a true gentleman who understood the race thing and did all he could. Again, a true gentleman on and off the field -- I never heard anybody say a bad word about him, ever."

Dave Anderson of The New York Times recalled growing up in Brooklyn, rooting for Musial. Those Dodgers crowds helped give Musial his nickname, Stan the Man.

"I thought he was going to knock the fence down in Brooklyn, he'd hit it so often," Anderson said.

Musial did it despite an odd left-handed stance -- with his legs and knees close together, he would cock the bat near his ear and twist his body away from the pitcher before uncoiling when the ball came.

If that was a lasting snapshot of Musial, the images of Weaver will stay just as fresh -- the feisty manager, perhaps with his hat turned backward, looking up at an umpire and screaming at him before kicking dirt somewhere and finally leaving the field.

None of those histrionics should obscure the fact that in the end, Weaver often had the last laugh -- to the tune of a .583 career winning percentage.

"When you discuss our game's motivational masters, Earl is a part of that conversation," Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said. "He was a proven leader in the dugout and loved being a Hall of Famer. Though small in stature, he was a giant as a manager."

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Tonight's Lineup: Tommy Joseph out, Rhys Hoskins back to 1B in opener vs. Nationals

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CSN

Tonight's Lineup: Tommy Joseph out, Rhys Hoskins back to 1B in opener vs. Nationals

The Phillies need just one more win to avoid losing 100 games this season. They'll hope to get it Monday night, when they open their series against the Nationals.

Pete Mackanin has made several adjustments to the lineup that beat Atlanta on Sunday, 2-0, behind a strong start from Nick Pivetta (see observations.)

Tommy Joseph is out, which means that Rhys Hoskins returns to first base. Hoskins is going through a rough stretch over the last few days, as he has only two hits in his last 17 at-bats.

Despite going 2 for 3 on Sunday, Jorge Alfaro is replaced by Andrew Knapp, who plays for the first time since last Wednesday. Mackanin seems to be trying to give all three of his catchers chances to play over the final weeks of the season.

Aaron Altherr shifts down from second to fifth in the lineup. Altherr is hitting .289 vs. righties this season, compared to .236 against lefties.  The Phillies face a righty tonight in Washington's A.J. Cole. In two appearances against the Phillies this year, Cole has allowed only one run in eight innings.

Aaron Nola kicks off the Phillies' final homestand on the mound. He has been stellar this year at Citizens Bank Park, where he is 9-4 with a 2.98 ERA. Nola has started against the Nationals three time thus far in 2017, sporting a 1-0 record and 3.31 ERA in those outings. 

The Phillies' lineup can be found below: 

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, LF
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Maikel Franco, 3B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Aaron Nola, SP

And the Nationals' lineup:

Nationals
1. Trea Turner, SS
2. Wilmer Difo, 3B
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
4. Adam Lind, LF
5. Jayson Werth, RF
6. Michael Taylor, CF
7. Matt Wieters, C
8. Adrian Sanchez, 2B
9. A.J. Cole, P

After fighting quitting fire, Adam Morgan one of Phillies' most reliable relievers

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After fighting quitting fire, Adam Morgan one of Phillies' most reliable relievers

His team had lost the previous two nights to the Atlanta Braves. Now, it was trying to hold a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning and salvage at least one game in the series.

So Pete Mackanin went to arguably his most dependable reliever.

Back in the final days of spring training, Adam Morgan was nearly cut from the Phillies. The team needed 40-man roster space and he was on the short list of considerations for the waiver wire. Morgan survived, squeaked onto the opening day roster as a mop-up man, then, two weeks into the season, was called into the manager's office and sent to Triple A Lehigh Valley for the fifth time in two seasons.

That meeting in Mackanin's office shook Morgan. He said little. He walked out, sat in front of the locker he'd soon have to vacate and began a three-day reflection period in which he seriously considered retiring from the game at age 27 and moving on to pursue his second career choice of being a firefighter in the Atlanta area, where he was raised.

Morgan was back in Atlanta on Sunday, a different kind of fireman.

He was the guy that Mackanin called upon to hold off the Braves in the eighth inning and get the ball to Hector Neris. Neris bobbed and weaved his way to recording his 18th consecutive save since June 28. Before that, Morgan pitched a scoreless eighth inning to lower his ERA to 0.75 since August 2. In that span, he has pitched 24 innings in 18 games. He has given up just 14 hits and two runs while walking four and striking out 28.

Not too shabby.

"Morgan continued to pitch well, did a great job," Mackanin said after the 2-0 win. "And Neris is Neris. He makes you nervous but gets the job done."

Several months ago, it would have been difficult to imagine Mackanin calling on Morgan is such a tight situation. It also would have been difficult to imagine Morgan popping fastballs at 96.3 miles per hour, as he did Sunday, and setting up hitters with a tight, late-breaking slider. The combination has enhanced his changeup.

Morgan, a lefty, was a top starting pitching prospect with the Phillies, often compared to a young Cliff Lee, until a shoulder injury set him back in 2013 and 2014. He made it back from surgery in 2015, but his fastball never returned to form. He was moved to the bullpen last year and tried to reinvent himself as a finesse pitcher. The results were spotty. When he was sent to the minors after just two appearances back in April of this season, he was at an emotional crossroads. He told team officials that he was going to need all three days as allowed by baseball's labor agreement to report to Triple A.

"And maybe more," he said.

Morgan and his wife, Rachel, have spent the season living in hotels between Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley. On April 11, the night he was sent to the minors, he returned to his Philadelphia hotel and continued the reflection that started in front of his locker.

"I thought long and hard about what I was going to do, if I wanted to do the whole shuttle back and forth to Lehigh, or if I wanted to even play anymore," he said. "I'm such a simple guy that it's the little things that make me happy. Being with my family makes me happy, cutting the grass makes me happy. I'd think to myself, 'Why am I showing up to the field and I'm not happy?"

Morgan thought about returning to school and finishing the criminal justice degree he'd begun at the University of Alabama. And he thought about pursuing a lifelong calling.

"I'd always wanted to be a firefighter," he said. "They're bad dudes. They're awesome. I've always wanted to do it. I've always liked the brotherhood those guys have. It's a little like baseball, the camaraderie, the clubhouse. I thought maybe it was time."

Morgan is a Southern gentleman, an earnest, good-hearted man of faith. As he continued to contemplate his future, he prayed, read the Bible and talked with his wife, his buddies and his mom and dad back home in suburban Atlanta.

He decided to report to Lehigh Valley.

"My dad always taught me once you start something, finish it, don't quit," Morgan said. "So I decided I was going to finish the year regardless then re-evaluate. It was not right to quit in the middle of the year."

Morgan made it back to the majors in May and was soon sent back to Triple A. He could handle it. He was at peace. When the Phillies needed pitching in early June, he returned to the majors. He's been there ever since. And with each successful appearance, he's earned the trust of his manager. The guy who was almost cut in spring training is now a go-to guy for Mackanin.

"I think what we're seeing is the real deal," Mackanin said. "It's there. We’ve been counting on him to do the job and he's done it."

In the seasons immediately after surgery, Morgan's fastball hovered around 90 mph. He has hit 97 often over the last couple of months. Morgan believes the jump in velocity is a result of his becoming more accustomed to a reliever's routine. It allows him to do more long-tossing during workouts and that has improved his arm strength. He has also become more confident. That has resulted in him letting the ball go with more conviction instead of choking it as a pitcher afraid of making a mistake would. Hitters must be ready for that extra velocity or get beaten by it, so it has made the rest of Morgan's pitches better.

An improved slider has also played a huge role in Morgan's turnaround. He knew he needed to sharpen the pitch. He and pitching coach Bob McClure talked about a number of different grips and Morgan began to experiment. Finally, as he played catch in the outfield one day with fellow pitcher Luis Garcia, another reliever who has shown signs of finally putting it together, Morgan found a grip that worked.

"Louie was like, 'Wow,' " Morgan said.

Morgan continued to work on the new slider. It's tighter and breaks later than his old one. It has become a weapon.

"His fastball is better and he's throwing an invisible slider," Mackanin said.

There has been an intangible quality to Morgan's improvement, as well. Some of it is as simple as what McClure says: It often takes a pitcher two or three years before he truly believes he can succeed in the majors, two or three years to relax and let his natural abilities shine. It's part of the mental game of baseball and Morgan has clearly made strides there.

"Things started to turn when I started to enjoy the game," he said. "I stopped putting pressure on myself because I knew this could be my last year. I was like, 'If this is it, I'm going to enjoy it.' Even in Triple A. We had a good group of guys. I was going to cheer for them and let the chips fall where they may.

"I stopped putting my worth on my stat sheet. That's where I lost sight of how much I enjoyed the game. As a reliever, one bad outing can mess up your stats so I stopped looking at it.

"I focused on my strengths instead of the hitter's weakness. I think I was tired of everybody telling me what my strengths were, like telling me how to pitch to be successful. People were trying to help me, but I think I just got exhausted with being a people pleaser and not taking care of myself and doing what I see as the right thing. I never lost confidence in my fastball even after surgery when it was 88 or 90. I feel like I'm pitching to my strengths. I don’t have to throw a curveball to this guy because he's a crappy curveball hitter. I can get him out different ways."

Morgan has gone from a waiver consideration to "for me, a definite," as far as being in the Phillies' bullpen plans for next season, Mackanin said.

But Morgan is taking nothing for granted.

"I don't think this is a fluke," he said. "But I know I have to keep showing it. You have to prove it every day up here. I don't think you can ever get comfortable in the big leagues. You always have to have that edge.

"Even though the season is coming to a close, I don’t want it to end. I have to keep doing my routine, my shoulder work, my long-toss. I'm still working, trying to get better."

Funny how things work out. In April, Adam Morgan was thinking about the end. Along the way, he found a new beginning.

"Wow," he said, exhaling. "It's just emotional even thinking about quitting."