CINCINNATI -- During his lengthy second career as a game analyst at ESPN, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan complained often about the steady decline of African-Americans in Major League Baseball and youth baseball. On Wednesday, Morgan strived to become a man of action, and he's doing it as part of the team with which he had the best years of his playing career. Morgan, 66, joined the Reds as a special advisor to baseball operations. The move was announced during a news conference at Great American Ball Park.
"It's very easy for me to sit on television and talk about it," Morgan said about the thinning ranks of African-American ballplayers. "I wanted to help try to change that. The Reds have already been trying to change that. I felt like I could help that." Morgan will have a role in both the baseball and business side of the Reds. His most extensive work will likely be in community outreach and diversity initiatives. He'll also support the efforts of the Reds Community Fund and Reds Hall of Fame. There are times when Morgan will be consulted by general manager Walt Jocketty on baseball decisions or players on the team. "I think when you get an opportunity to bring someone like Joe into the organization -- with his success as a Hall of Famer, a former MVP -- all you have to do is listen to one of his ESPN telecasts to realize how much he knows about this game," Jocketty said. "I look forward to picking his brain at different situations, about players." And that's not all. "I want to do some games with Marty and Thom [Brennaman] here," Morgan said. "I got some permission from ESPN to broadcast some games here. I'm going to be a guest, not really part of the broadcast team." When Morgan decided he wanted to return to his former club, he first called Hall of Fame radio voice Marty Brennaman for advice. Morgan's second call was to Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini. The two men have spoken before, but this wasn't a social call. "This was a different kind of phone call from Joe," Castellini said. "It was one that was genuinely wanting to reach out and see what he could do to help the Cincinnati Reds." In a 22-season career from 1963-84, where he established himself as one of the best second basemen of all time, Morgan batted .271 with 268 home runs and 1,133 RBIs. He was a 10-time All-Star, including eight straight with the Reds, and a five-time Gold Glove Award winner. Morgan's most prolific period came as a member of the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati from 1972-79, where he won World Series titles with the team in 1975-76 and was the National League Most Valuable Player during both seasons. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990. For the past two decades, Morgan has been a fixture on ESPN as a game analyst for Sunday Night Baseball. He is remaining with the cable network and doing his work for the Reds in a part-time capacity. Morgan, who is also opening a car dealership in the area, didn't believe there would be a conflict of interest in working for the Reds and calling games. Currently, the Reds are not on the Sunday Night Baseball 2010 schedule. "I'm not making baseball decisions here," Morgan said. "I will be doing stuff in the business world. Yes, I will be around. If Walt wants to ask me a question about one of the Reds players, I will be glad to answer it. If you want to know the truth, I've been doing that for teams for a hundred years. I have owners who call and ask me about players." In his years after retirement, Morgan had stayed away from the Reds and their former ownership, which often showed little affinity for its former players and history. In recent years, he's gradually rekindled his relationship with the team by attending Spring Training as a special instructor. He was also at an announcement earlier this month for the Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati on May 15. "I hope I can make this a better community," Morgan said as he choked up with emotion. "Again, I hope I can help the Reds. They've already had these things going. I just hope I can push these things through in the community. That's why I'm here." Why is being in Cincinnati so special for Morgan? "[Johnny] Bench, [Pete] Rose, [Tony] Perez, [George] Foster, [Ken] Griffey, [Dave] Concepcion -- all of those guys. That's the main reason," he replied. "Some of the greatest times in my life were spent here. This was a great place for me. "I guess you can say it's a labor of love for me being involved in the community. I work in the community in California where I grew up. This is kind of my second home."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.