Joe Morgan, driving force of Big Red Machine, dies at 77

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Cincinnati Reds hall of fame second baseman Joe Morgan is introduced at ceremonies inducting four new former players into the Reds Hall of Fame, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman who became the sparkplug of the Big Red Machine and the prototype for baseball’s artificial turf era, has died. He was 77.

He died at his home Sunday in Danville, California, a family spokesman said Monday. Morgan was suffering from a nerve condition, a form of polyneuropathy.

Morgan’s death marked the latest among major league greats this year: Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver and Al Kaline.

Morgan was a two-time NL Most Valuable Player, a 10-time All-Star and won five Gold Gloves. The 5-foot-7 dynamo known for flapping his left elbow at the plate could hit a home run, steal a base and disrupt any game with his daring.

Most of all, he completed Cincinnati’s two-time World Series championship team, driving a club featuring the likes of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez to back-to-back titles.

Morgan’s tiebreaking single with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 7 in 1975 gave the Reds the crown in a classic matchup with Boston, and he spurred a four-game sweep of the Yankees the next season.

In a 22-year career through 1984, Morgan scored 1,650 runs, stole 689 bases, hit 268 homers and batted .271. But those stats hardly reflected the force he created in becoming, to many, the greatest second baseman in the game’s history.

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