The Top 100 Cubs Of All Time - Jerry Morales

This is Morales' 1976 Topps card -- the photo appears to have been taken at the old Ho Ho Kam Park.

Profile by BCB reader billypilgrim

Julio Ruben Morales was born on February 18, 1949 in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico,and originally signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent at the age of 17 in 1966. He went to the Padres in 1968 as a choice in that year's expansion draft, and spent several seasons going up and down in the Padres' farm system, finally becoming a semiregular in 1972 and 1973, leading Tribune reporter Richard Dozer to ask, "Who's Jerry Morales?" in the lede to his November 13, 1973 Tribune article on the Cubs' trade of Glenn Beckert (and minor league infielder Bob Fenwick) to San Diego for a 24-year-old center fielder, Morales, who ended up playing seven seasons for the Cubs. During his two stints for the Cubs, 1973-1977 & 1981-1983, Morales was a consistent and quiet outfielder (he played all three outfield positions) with above average speed and a good glove.

At the time of the Beckert deal, Cubs General Manager John Holland believed acquiring Morales was "in line with our movement for youth and speed" (Dozer, 11/13/73). In the same off-season, the Cubs also moved Fergie Jenkins, and, at the time of this trade, speculation was that by acquiring Morales, Billy Williams would either be moved to first or traded. By trading Jenkins and Beckert, the Cubs payroll decreased (Fergie's and Beckert's salaries totaled over $200,000).

While Morales led the Cubs with 91 RBI during the 1975 season, his most promising season was for the 1977 Cubs. Along with Rick Reuschel, Bruce Sutter, and Manny Trillo, Morales represented the Cubs in the 1977 All Star Game at Yankee Stadium, in which Morales was plunked in the knee by Yankee pitcher Sparky Lyle. The hit-by-pitch, one of 28 in All-Star game history, a subsequent back injury, and a broken finger from making a catch in center field all shortened the 1977 season for Morales. His injuries contributed to the Cubs decline that season (they had a five game lead over the eventual champs, the Phillies, after 83 games), and Morales never seemed to be same player.

In the off-season between the 1977 and 1978 season Cubs General Manager, Bob Kennedy, traded Morales to the Cardinals for catcher Dave Rader. The trade - Morales, Steve Swisher, player to be named for Rader and Hector "Heity" Cruz - was intended to upgrade the Cubs catching position. "Rader is a very good hitter and a fine receiver," said Kennedy, "He is considerably better than what we had" (Dozer, 12/9/77). The 1977 Cubs had George Mitterwald and Swisher behind the plate, and the Morales trade brought the Cubs Rader to team up with newly acquired defensive catcher Larry Cox. At the time, Morales was considered a surplus outfielder who could be traded to help upgrade the position.

Morales returned to the Cubs as a free agent before the 1981 season. The signing was considered a small one, as Morales signed a minor league contract to play for Iowa. The Tribune described the signing this way (Sports Briefing, 2/18/81, p. 3):

Jerry Morales has almost hit for the cycle. The Cubs announced they have signed the free-agent utility man to a one-year contract with their Iowa Triple-A team and invited him to spring training for a shot with the big guys.

Notes:

Morales was one of 150 players to have a 1977 Hostess baseball card, seen here:

Morales was playing right field on April 25, 1976 against the Dodgers when Rick Monday snatched the American Flag from two protestors. The next off-season Monday was traded to the Dodgers (for Buckner and DeJesus). Years later, Monday would become a Dodger announcer, causing Dodger fans (well, at least one Dodger blogger) to write on April 23, 2006, "Couldn't Jerry Morales have saved the flag?"

Finally, as noted above, Morales' birth name was Julio Ruben. Morales played toward the tailend of the less-enlightened era where certain Hispanic players (i.e. "Bob" Clemente) were called by Americanized names. Were he playing today, he undoubtedly would be known by his original name, Julio Morales.

Jerry Morales' career stats from baseball-reference.com

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