Joe Morgan was a vital cog in the Big Red Machine. He was also a giant. Not the kind in San Francisco. The kind that belied his 5-foot-7, 160-pound frame. The kind who has an outsized impact and is recognized as the biggest, baddest man in the room.
Morgan spent the prime of his 22-year career in Cincinnati, doing things second basemen had never done before with style and a confidence that danced on the line of cockiness. He did everything. Hit. Steal. Field. Go yard. Compete. Win. Repeatedly. Stake claim to the only player in baseball history to win back-to-back MVP awards on back-to-back World Series champions.
The sweet-swinging lefty was walking irony. For as impressive as his counting stats are in context of position, it's his advanced metrics that tell the richest narrative — posting, for instance, a 100.5 rWAR and 132 OPS+ — and Morgan's second act as a broadcaster was highlighted by an indifference, if not a disdain for sabermetrics.
Life's funny that way.
ESPN's longtime Sunday Night Baseball stalwart was part comforting, part maddening in the high-profile role. He spawned arguably the most influential sports blog in history with his schtick. Long before it became fashionable to take issue with announcers, Morgan was without company in the crosshairs.
Through it all, Little Joe stood tall and resolute. He was steadfast in his beliefs and impervious to the blowback because he'd lived the game. He'd stood next to broad-shouldered men 100 pounds larger than him and knocked them all down. His fearless tenacity going from first to third on a single or standing in to turn a 6-4-3 double play became part of his DNA.
His shoulders, even if slight, spanned multiple generations. Grandfathers and fathers admired his play on the field. Sons and grandsons learned the game with his voice as the soundtrack. And that voice was appropriately booming and authoritative, fitting of a more barrel-chested man.
It was the voice of a giant who lived a big life in his 77 years.