Hobby Musings: Catching Up With Former Pitcher Jim Morris – Not many people get to live their dream of playing in Major League Baseball, having their life story made into a movie and then getting a chance to be part of that film. For former pitcher Jim Morris though, he was able to realize all three. One of the most amazing comeback stories in sports history, Morris made his MLB debut at age 35 after having been out of the game for years. His story was later adapted to the film, “The Rookie,” where he was portrayed by Dennis Quaid. Now a motivational speaker, Mr. Morris was kind enough to take some time to talk about his experiences with trading cards, autographs and memorabilia.
KS: Jim, you’re known for your amazing comeback story and chance to pitch in the majors with Tampa Bay. What memorabilia, if any, did you keep from your MLB stint?
JM: Oh man, I kept quite a bit of stuff. One of the producers on The Rookie, who himself played in the majors, said you want to keep as much of it as possible. I kept the ball and glove from my first game with Tampa Bay. When I retired from baseball for good with the Dodgers, I got a lot of stuff from the manager, Jim Tracy, for me to give to kids back home. As an MLB player, you’re still a person, and it’s nice to be able to give back. I have Dodgers helmets and things that didn’t mean much to others, but to me, they mean the world.
At Yankee Stadium, I went to the outfield and took a picture next to Lou Gehrig’s monument. My grandfather had ALS. I ended up getting the picture blown up and gave it to my grandmother.
KS: Is there anything you didn’t keep from your playing career that you wish you still had?
JM: One of the things I regretted was not getting autographs from other guys. They’re your teammates and guys you battle with, so you don’t think to ask them. Then later on, you see them becoming stars and Hall of Famers and you kick yourself for not asking. So yeah, autographs from other guys.
Hobby Musings: Catching Up With Former Pitcher Jim Morris
KS: You had a cameo in the “The Rookie.” Did you keep any souvenirs from the film?
JM: I kept a director’s chair. I also kept pictures. They had a great photographer on set who was always taking mine and Dennis’ picture. I also held onto matchbooks from the 21 Club where we had the film’s premier dinner. I also keep different tickets from different places we visited while promoting the film so we could scrapbook that kind of stuff.
KS: You had multiple trading cards released both minor league and major league issue. What was it like being able to see yourself on a card?
JM: That was bizarre beyond bizarre. Early in my career, I had hair that was dark, and that boggles my mind looking on it as my hair got gray and I had less of it over time. In the major leagues, signing a card with my picture on it, you can’t even describe it. I went from teaching kids in a classroom to signing my autograph in a stadium with 40,000 people. Quite a change of venue.
KS: Did you collect cards growing up or even collect any of your own cards?
JM: When I was little, ever since 5, I wanted to be a baseball player. From 5 to 12, I had a huge set of cards. Being in a military family, we moved around a lot, and I lost a lot of them in moves. Looking back on some of the cards I had, they’re worth a lot now. Back when you’re a kid, you don’t think of it that way though.
Just seeing the history of baseball and how it’s changed, it’s been crazy with the analytics and technology. Even from when I played to now, it’s a completely different game. So with the cards, seeing what those guys did back then, it’s history. I am sad that I don’t have them now, because I had a lot of cool cards as a kid.
One of my little league teams had the chance to meet Hank Aaron and I got a baseball signed by him. I ended up using that autographed baseball for a game during the winter and ruined it. I met him again years later and told him that story. I asked him for his autograph, and he laughed and said he would sign whatever I wanted after hearing the story, so he was kind enough to sign for me again.
Hobby Musings: Catching Up With Former Pitcher Jim Morris
KS: Do you have a favorite trading card of yourself that was released?
JM: I do. It’s got me in my windup and I have a black jersey on and white pants. I’m all stretched out with the ball behind me. That is my favorite card. How you can be 35 yards old and a prospect is beyond me, but it was a prospect card.
KS: Fans love their autographs. On a weekly basis, how many autograph requests would you say you receive?
JM: I pretty much signed everything. Funny story, In 2000, the FBI came to talk to the players about being careful about what we signed. We were told not to sign things that didn’t have the major league logo and avoid items like index cards where our signatures could be used for a scamming purpose. It’s just bizarre because I didn’t imagine something like that could come out of signing an autograph.
I speak for a living now, so afterwards, a lot of people stay and ask me to sign. I sign all kinds of stuff related to baseball and the movie. Honestly, I kind of wonder why people want my autograph. It’s surreal.
KS: Do you find fans ask you to sign stuff more related to your career like trading cards and baseballs, or more related to the film?
JM: Its about 50/50. A lot of people like the story itself and other people have a copy of the movie and like to have the DVD cover signed. It’s humbling to have people ask you, to the point where you wonder if you’re worthy of having people ask for your signature. It’s still cool to be asked.
KS: Do you ever get mistaken as Dennis Quaid or asked to sign memorabilia with his picture on it?
JM: Not too much, I am taller than he is. I gave a speech in Alabama once and a kid came around the corner to come get my autograph and said, “That’s not him, he’s old.” I realized he was expecting to see Dennis and not me.
KS: What is the strangest thing anyone has asked you to sign?
JM: I’ll tell you what I got in trouble for. The Disney people lost their minds over this. A woman asked me to come over and sign her Rookie license plate. So I left the field I was on and walked across the parking lot to sign it. They were worried about where I was, even saying that I could have been kidnapped. Again, not something you think would ever come from signing an autograph.
I’ve signed bras for people. Golf balls are horrible because of the divots in them.
KS: Conversely, what is the coolest thing someone has asked you sign?
JM: I was doing an Easter service out in California. In between services, the pastor and I were playing catch outside. So we’re out there in suits and ties and throwing in the heat. I throw and the ball ends up denting the door of his Mercedes Benz. He ended up having me sign the dent.
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