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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 924

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This is the grave of Carl Morton.

Born in 1944 in Kansas City, Morton grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a great baseball player and went to the University of Oklahoma to play as an outfielder. He was pretty successful but not a truly great player. The Atlanta Braves drafted him but he was only OK for them and they left him open for the Montreal Expos to draft in the 1968 Expansion Draft. By this time, Morton had converted to a pitcher and was showing some promise, enough for a new team like the Expos to take a flyer on him.

Morton was immediately successful in the Expos organization. He got a few starts in 1969 and did OK. So in 1970, the Expos hoped he would be one of their better pitchers. He had an excellent rookie season that year. He was 18-11 with a 3.60 ERA, which was enough to win Rookie of the Year. Now, looking deeper, one could see that Morton was unlikely to really be a star. This was still the era when pitches threw a lot of innings. So he did this in a ridiculous 284.2 innings. But in that, he only struck out 154 batters while walking 125, which was the most in the National League. So that’s actually not super great.

Morton worked on his walks but he would never have as the level of success, at least according to traditional metrics like wins, as he did in 1970. He only went 10-18 in 1971 and his ERA was up too. He was decent in 1972, but had a bad record because the Expos couldn’t score runs. Before the 1973 season, they traded him back to the Braves. There, Morton had the best seasons of his career. He had at least 15 wins the next three years and was really quite good in 1975, when he was 17-16 with a 3.50 ERA, though he still could never strike anyone out, giving up 82 walks versus 78 strikeouts in 277.2 innings, which is almost impossible for me to imagine as a contemporary baseball fan. But according to Baseball Reference’s WAR statistic, he was worth 6.1 wins that year.

Morton slipped pretty significantly in 1976. After that season, the Braves packaged him with some other guys in a trade with Texas for Jeff Burroughs. But the Rangers released him before the 77 season. He signed with the Phillies but never played there. He continued trying to make teams into 1978, but he was finished.

In 1983, Morton went jogging near his parents home in Tulsa. While doing so, he had a heart attack and died. He was only 39 years old.

Carl Morton is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

If you would like this series to visit other winners of Rookie of the Year, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Ken Hubbs, the 1962 NL winner, is in Colton, California and the great Willie McCovey, the 1959 NL winner, is in Colma, California. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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