February 18, 1949 |
Yabucoa, Puerto Rico
|September 5, 1969, for the San Diego Padres|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 28, 1983, for the Chicago Cubs|
|Runs batted in||570|
|Career highlights and awards|
Morales was originally signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent at the age of 17 in 1966. He went to the San Diego 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 lead to his November 13, 1973, Tribune article on the Cubs' trade of Glenn Beckert (and minor league infielder Bobby 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. He was known for his unusual "basket catch" style. Unless he was running when he caught a ball, he always made a two-handed basket catch, directly in front of his body, below the belt.
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 offseason, the Cubs also moved Ferguson 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 Major League Baseball 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 the same player.
In the offseason between the 1977 and 1978 season, Cubs General Manager, Bob Kennedy, traded Morales to the St. Louis 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 Triple-A Iowa and made his final appearance for the Cubs in 1983.
After the 1983 season, Morales immediately began his coaching career by becoming the Cubs roving minor league hitting and outfield instructor; he served in this position through 1986. From 1987–1990, he was a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a twelve-year break from MLB, he became the Montreal Expos first base and outfield coach from 2002–2004. In 2006, he was a coach in Puerto Rico and with the Gulf Coast Mets. From 2007–2008, he was the first base coach for the Washington Nationals. In February 2009, he was named a coach for the St. Lucie Mets.