Baby Boomers

Joe Morgan, Houston Astros and Free Beer

The death of baseball Hall of Famer second baseman Joe Morgan brought a flood of memories to fans of “America’s Pastime.”

In 2020, we’ve lost such greats as Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Don Larson, Tom Seaver, and more.

Many boyhood friends, classmates, fellow team players, as well as more recent pals have shared memories after learning of Joe Morgan’s passing.

My favorite comes from J.J. Jung, a fellow McCollum High School alumni from San Antonio’s proud Southside. Jung is also know as the unofficial historian for McCollum Cowboys sports, especially football. He’s my go to expert for sports analysis.

“Jack… it’s memory that couldn’t be bought from me,” J.J. responded when I asked if I could share his memory on  “I had been invited and tagged along with a friends family as they went to a business convention…” to a Houston Astros baseball game that ” was part of the convention entertainment package… and included a trip to NASA too.”

 “It was the first major league game I had ever been to… in the Astrodome when (Joe Morgan) played for the Astros in ’70 or ’71 (note: Morgan  played in the majors in 1963, when the Astros were the Houston Colt 45s. He was traded to Cincinnati in November 1971 as part of an eight-player deal. He played the next eight years with the Cincinnati Reds).”

“Back then… they had a promotion going where if an Astro hit a home run on an even minute of the clock… there would be free beer for the next three innings.  It sounds crazy today… but that’s exactly how it worked.”

“Next to the clock on that big electronic scoreboard was a big red light that went on and off with each minute… on being when the clock was on an even minute.  If the light is lit… and the ball is hit out of the park… it’s free beer.”

“Early in the game… around the 3rd inning if I remember right… Joe came up to bat… and bang… out of the park on an even minute of the clock.” 

“I remember the people rising from their seats as the ball made it’s flight and… as soon as it dropped… there was a mass exodus for the beer booths.” 

“We were too young… so we couldn’t get a beer… but as we sat there… we looked around the entire stadium… and it seemed like the entire stadium had emptied into the aisles to go get a beer.  We almost felt like we were watching the game alone.  So… free beer for the adults for the next three innings.”

“A little later… the free beer promotion had JUST ended… it seems like it was about the 6th inning or so and… you guessed it… here comes Joe to bat once again… the crowd is cheering for him to do it again… and BANG… he did it again.  The same scene repeated itself… and there was once again free beer for the next three innings…I can NEVER forget that.”

J.J. Jung back in the day.

Morgan was the National League MVP in 1975 and 1976 and was named an All-Star in each of his eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. He was a .271 career hitter, with 268 home runs, 1,133 RBIs, 1,650 runs scored and 689 stolen bases, 11th in baseball history.

Another McCollum Cowboy, Gary Roe recalls when Morgan played with San Antonio’s then minor league team, “the Bullets, at the old stadium near Probandt…One of my all time fav second basemen. RIP Joe Morgan.”

Morgan was also a 10-time All-Star and a five-time Gold Glove Award winner. Besides being one of the best second basemen in baseball history, many know him for his 25-plus years as a broadcaster after his playing career.

Morgan, 77, died Sunday at his home in Danville, California.

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