'Morgan's Magic' fondly remembered at Fenway
Former manager, players on hand to celebrate 25th anniversary of '88 run
BOSTON -- It's been more than 20 years since Joe Morgan has managed a Major League game, but he still thinks he has the right stuff to guide a team to success.
"I'd be dynamite," he said. "What else would you expect? For the money you're getting paid, why wouldn't you be?"
Morgan is the namesake of the incredible stretch of baseball the Red Sox embarked on in the summer of 1988 known as "Morgan's Magic."
Down nine games in the American League East heading into the All-Star break, the Red Sox inserted Morgan as interim manager and he went on to lead the team to the division title.
The Red Sox honored Morgan and the memorable run before their game against the Mariners on Tuesday by having Morgan throw out the first pitch with seven of his former players, including Roger Clemens, in attendance.
Morgan, 82, missed his target, current Red Sox manager John Farrell, on his first pitch, but instructed Farrell to retrieve the ball and give him another chance. His second attempt was on the money and the Fenway faithful roared.
The roars weren't all too different from the ones that filled the park during his memorable run, which is firmly entrenched in Boston sports lore.
The Red Sox won the first 12 games Morgan managed, 19 of 20 and 19 straight at Fenway.
"It's almost like changing into a new uniform," said Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, who pitched on that team. "New manager, new ideas. Seems like you were on a new team and that's basically what it was."
Morgan's reign was supposed to be short as Lou Gorman, the general manager at the time, viewed him as nothing more than a fill-in.
Gorman came to Morgan at the time of the promotion and made his objectives clear.
"[Gorman] did say, 'You will be the manager while we look around for one.' I said, 'Don't look around. You're looking at him right now. It's me,'" Morgan said.
He wasn't taken seriously at the time, but Morgan, who was the team's third-base coach before the promotion and had managed in Triple-A Pawtucket before that, knew this was his chance.
"I figured in that 11-game homestand if the team could win maybe eight games, I might have a chance to win out the season," he said.
When the team won all 11 and another one for good measure, the interim tag was dropped.
Morgan and his magic led the team to an AL East title in 1988 and another one two years later before leaving in 1991.
"When you have a manager change in the middle of the season, I think it lit a fire under us because as a player, you feel responsible for when you lose a manager on how you're performing," Clemens said. "So I think it sparked us all to play better and to pay attention to detail."
On Tuesday, Morgan was given some mementos of his time in Boston. The team presented him with the scorecard from his first game as manager and two seats from Fenway Park, Nos. 19 and 88.
Clemens, Boyd, Mike Smithson, Tom Bolton, Lee Smith, Dwight Evans and Spike Owen were there in support of their former manager and many more sent well wishes via messages shown on the Jumbotron.
The group swapped stories and caught up before the ceremony.
"We were able to hear a few good stories and see how everyone was doing," Clemens said. "Joe came in last, so it was good to see him. I was curious to see how he was going to look and how he was going to feel and he looked the same. When he saw us, he looked us right in the eye and you could see a couple of the other guys that he might not have recognized at first and then the memories starting coming back to him, so that was pretty cool."
"'Morgan's Magic,' that summed Joe up in a nutshell," said Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, who wasn't in attendance. "Joe was a true pleasure to play for, throwing the play-it-by-the-book attitude out the window. He managed his own way, Joe's way."
Morgan, who still lives in his childhood hometown of Walpole, Mass., was lively in a news conference after the event, cracking jokes and remembering his time in Boston.
He singled out Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia as some of his current favorite players and said he likes the chances of the 2013 Red Sox down the stretch.
"I like this team," he said. "They got a lot of new blood in here, guys that want to win and bounce around. And the young pitchers that come up, they don't seem too scared. They're out there doing a pretty good job."
Michael Periatt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Michael Periatt. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.