Feb 17, 2016

Early Eighties Mets Outfielder: Jerry Morales (1980)

Julio Ruben (Torres) Morales was born February 18, 1949 in Puerto Rico. The right hand hitting five foot, ten inch outfielder was originally signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 1966 at the age of 17. He was taken away as the 16th pick by the National Leagues new San Diego Padres during the 1968 expansion draft. 

Morales was an original Padre outfielder, making his debut as a September call up that season batting .195 with one HR & 6 RBIs in 19 games. He had good speed in the outfield & often made two handed basket catches playing as a reserve his first three seasons. By 1972 he was seeing regular action hitting .239 with seven triples, (sixth most in the NL) 4 HRs & 18 RBIs in 115 games. 

In 1973 he played 122 games in the Padre outfield under manager Don Zimmer on a last place team going 60-102. Morales had 23 doubles, while batting .281. He would bat over .270 each of the next five seasons. But by 1974 the Padres had young outfielders Dave Winfield & Johnny Grubb to team up with Cito Gaston in the outfield. Morales was the odd man out & was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Glenn Beckert & Bobby Fenwick. 

He would spend the next four seasons as a Cubs regular outfielder, putting up decent numbers at Wrigley Field. He hit 15 or more HRs twice, as well as driving in 80 plus runs two times as well. In 1975 he drove in a career high 91 runs (just missing the top ten in the NL) on a team that drove in the fourth most runs in the league. His 11 sac flies that season were second best in the NL. He also hit twenty plus doubles three times during his Chicago years. 

In the outfield, playing the walls of Ivy at Wrigley Field, he had eleven assists in right field (second in the league) in 1975, followed by twelve assists in 1976 (3rd most in the NL). He would come in the top five of the league in fielding % every season from 1975-1979.

In 1977 he represented the Cubs in the All Star game along with Rick Reuschel, Bruce Sutter, and Manny Trillo. The Cubs had a five game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East at the break that season. In that All Star game, played in the Bronx, at the A.L. New York's new revamped ballpark, Morales was hit in the knee by a Sparky Lyle pitch, in the 7-5 N.L. win. Morales was on track to have his best overall season that year, but he broke his finger toward the end of the summer, finishing his season after 136 games. His injury added to the Cubs demise & falling out of contention. He posted career highs in batting (.290) doubles (34) on base % (.348) & outfield assists (12). 

In December 1977 he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals along with Steve Swisher in exchange for Hector Cruz & Dave Rader. His average fell to .239 and he only hit four HRs with 46 RBIs for the fifth place Cardinals. That December he was traded along with Aurelio Lopez to the Detroit Tigers for Bob Sykes & Jack Murphy. 

In one season there he batted a lowly .211 in 129 games. But he did hit 14 HRs with 23 doubles while driving in 56 runs, a lot more production than he had in 1978. On Halloween 1979 Morales was traded to the New York Mets for a very unhappy Richie Hebner, who spent just one season with the Mets. 

Morales debuted on Opening Day 1980, batting seventh for the Mets, playing center field alongside Joel Youngblood in right & Steve Henderson in left. In his first Mets at bat he singled home Mike Jorgensen with the first Mets run of the season. The hit came against former team mate Rick Reushel, he later drove in another run, helping Craig Swan beat his old Cubs team mates 5-2. He started out hitting safely in his first six games as a Met, driving in six runs. On April 15th he hit a HR against the Montreal Expos & the next day drove in two runs with a third inning single, leading the Mets to a 3-2 win. 

On May 14th, he drove in the Mets winning run, with a tenth inning RBI single off the Reds Tom Hume, in a 7-6 win at Cincinnati. He went into a slump after his hot start falling below the .200 mark into mid June. He hit well through the summer, as a reserve outfielder, raising his average up over .260. On July 23rd, in a tie game at the Houston Astrodome, Morales hit a top of the 9th sac fly, bringing in the game winning run off Frank LaCorte. 

In August he hit a solo HR at Montreal in a 4-3 Mets win over the Expos. In the next game he played in, he hit a two run HR & drove in another run in the Mets 7-1 win. In September he had four pinch hit RBI sac flies. He played all around the outfield in 63 games and appeared often as a pinch hitter, playing in 94 games overall. He batted .254 with three HRs, seven doubles 30 RBIs and a .293 on base %. His eight sac flies put him in the top league’s top ten in that department. But after one brief season with the Mets, he left New York & signed back with the Cubs as a free agent. 

He spent three more seasons in Chicago as a reserve player, batting a best .286 in 1981. Morales finished up his 15 year career in 1983, batting .259 with 1173 hits, 95 HRs, 199 doubles, 36 triples, 56 sac flies, 570 RBIs & a .313 on base %. In right field (563 games) his .980 fielding % is 91st all time. In center field (510 games) he posted a .986 fielding % which is 98th best all time. 

 Retirement: After his playing days he was a roving coach for the Cubs, then a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a twelve year absence from the game, he became a Montreal Expos first base coach from 2002-2004. 

In 2007-2008 he coached with the Washington Nationals. In 2006 he coached the Gulf Coast Mets, and in 2009 was a coach for the St. Lucie Mets.

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