MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

'Rock' inspired by Morgan to choose baseball over football

HOF inductee wanted to emulate former Reds second baseman

'Rock' inspired by Morgan to choose baseball over football

NEW YORK -- During his teenage years, National Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Raines wanted to be an NFL star, but it was Joe Morgan's greatness at second base that convinced him to become an infielder. The same Joe Morgan who won two National League Most Valuable Player Awards, helped the Reds capture two World Series titles and is now enshrined in Cooperstown.

"Joe Morgan is the reason I chose to be a professional baseball player," Raines said. "Seeing the things he did on the field was phenomenal. He was a second baseman, hit home runs and stole bases. He was a Gold Glove second baseman."

Hall of Fame coverage

Raines wasn't the only one that saw himself as the next Joe Morgan. The Expos saw him as their second baseman of the future when they selected him in the fifth round of the 1977 Draft. But once Raines got on the field, there was a problem.

Raines had a tough time playing the infield. He didn't have the range to play second base, and he had trouble turning the double play.

"That was the one thing I couldn't do that well, and that was play second base," Raines said.

The Expos then decided Raines would be better off in the outfield, and they never regretted the decision. Switching to left field in 1981 was the best thing that happened to him. In fact, Raines led the NL in outfield assists (21) in '83.

"It made it so much easier for me to go to the outfield," Raines said. "… As a leadoff guy, playing the outfield would [not have a lot of stress]. I don't have to be concerned about my defense. I could focus more on offense.

Raines on origin of nickname

"I took a lot of pride in my defense, but it was my offense that got me to the big leagues. I never won a Gold Glove, but I was a pretty decent outfielder. There was a couple of years I had a chance to win the Gold Glove, but back in those days, if you didn't play center field, you were not going to win a Gold Glove."

Raines is now going into Cooperstown as a Hall of Fame outfielder. After being voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Raines realized that he hadn't heard from Morgan in quite some time. Raines knew Morgan was under the weather recently, but Raines was pleasantly surprised when Morgan reached out to congratulate him on his induction.

"I knew he had some health issues," Raines said of Morgan. "He called me yesterday. To have him call me, especially after I haven't heard from him in a long time, it meant a lot to me. We've been friends ever since I was in the Major Leagues. Just to hear his voice made this day so much special."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.