Growing up, Moe Morhardt loved playing sports; many different sports. By the time he was a freshman at the University of Connecticut, he was playing varsity basketball, soccer, and of course, baseball. Baseball was the sport that gave him the best chance to be a professional athlete, as he was a skillful first baseman with a good bat.
Out of college, Morhardt signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1959, who were thinking towards the future. Their regular first baseman was Dale Long, whose production declined every year he was with the Cubs. Chicago needed a consistent compliment in their batting order to go along with star shortstop Ernie Banks, and Morhardt was one of the players they hoped might develop into the role.
Morhardt stumbled out of the gate when he began his professional career. He hit just .255 and .205 in his first two seasons in the minors, and showed little power. However, he finally realized his promise in 1961, when he hit .339 with 18 home runs for Wenatchee. The performance earned him a promotion to the majors, where he made his debut on September 7th. He appeared in 7 games, collecting 5 hits in 18 official at bats.
Another cup of coffee came for Morhardt in 1962, but he was unable to lock down a full time job. The Cubs solved their problem of lacking a reliable first baseman, by moving Banks across the diamond to take over the position. Morhardt languished in the minors for another couple of seasons, but never got another call-up, and finally called it a career after hitting just .226 with the Forth Worth Cats in 1964.
Morhardt ended up playing in 25 major league games, producing 7 singles in 34 at bats, for a .206 batting average. He also plated 3 RBI. More information about his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/morhamo01.shtml.
Recently I was able to ask Morhardt a few questions about his career in baseball.
Moe Morhardt Interview:
What is the strangest thing you ever saw as a player on the baseball diamond?: In the Eastern League in 1960 we were down a run in the last of the ninth, with a man on first base. We used a slow running catcher, Terry Jones, as a pinch hitter. He drove a ball deep to center field. Joe Pepitone (Binghamton) got back on the ball. The ball struck the branch of a willow tree leaning over the fence. It deflected the ball, hit Pepitone between the eyes. He dropped to the ground and by the time the right fielder Bud Zipfel got to the ball, Jones rounded the bases for a game-winning home run.
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: My favorite manager was the guy we had in Lancaster in 1960 in the Eastern League. Phil Cavarretta. He made me a better player even though I didn’t have a particularly good year.
Who was the most famous baseball fan you ever met at a game?: You see a lot of celebrities on the coast naturally, but politicians show up everywhere. I remember during my first year with the Los Angeles Angels (1961), we went to Palm Springs to play an exhibition game and Dinah Shore and Gene Autry were sitting by our dugout when we arrived.
If you could do anything differently about your playing career, what would that be?: I’d have listened to the other eleven teams that wanted to sign me at the time. I got a good deal from Chicago, and I took it, so you never know.
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