Last night Joe Morgan became the sixth former Red to have a statue at Great American Ballpark. Before him: Joe Nuxhall, Ted Kluszewski Frank Robinson, Ernie Lombardi and Johnny Bench. The statue was dedicated before the game and sits at the northwest entrance to the ballpark, which is the main entrance. So: pretty cool.
Also pretty cool: all eight starting position players for the 1975-76 World Series champion Reds — the Great Eight, as some call them — were on hand. Including Pete Rose, who was given permission from Major League Baseball. Cincinnati never lets you forget about the Big Red Machine, but man, when you have a lineup with Morgan, Bench, Rose, Perez, Concepcion, Griffey, Foster and Geronimo in it they can be excused for reminding you. Just insane.
A third pretty cool thing? What Joe Morgan said at the presentation. After noting that Johnny Bench once said that getting his statue was more important to him than getting into the Hall of Fame — and noting that, at the time, he doubted that — Morgan said this:
“Johnny, you were right,” Morgan continued. “Today is a better day. The Hall of Fame is about numbers and playing on great teams. You only get a statue or a sculpture if they want you to be remembered.”
I love that sentiment on an emotional level in that, absolutely, the statue thing or any other honor the home team gives former players comes from a much more heartfelt place in which fan sentiment and history and all of that are mixed up into nothing short of a big hug. On a personal level that has to be among the most satisfying things that can happen to an athlete.
But I also love it because, even though I’m sure he didn’t mean it this way based on his past comments on the matter, maybe it will nonetheless help remind those who seek to keep PED users out of the Halll of Fame that it’s not their job to decide who will and who will not be remembered. It is not their job to make the judgment that, baseball accomplishments aside, some players are to become part of history and others aren’t. That’s the stuff of statues and memorials and special days. The Hall of Fame is — or at least should be — about baseball.