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Willie J. Allen Jr., FR170803 AP
Newly elected Hall of Famer Jack Morris smiles during the press conference at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)
He’s turned out to be such a great young man. Back in the day, I had no idea someday he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. —Glen Tuckett

PROVO — The election of pitcher Jack Morris into the National Baseball Hall of Fame just became a career highlight for Glen Tuckett, Morris' former BYU baseball coach who recruited him out of Saint Paul, Minnesota, to play for the Cougars.

“I am absolutely thrilled, so proud of him," said Tuckett. “This is the highest honor in the game. I called him the night it happened and talked to him. He is so deserving.”

The Morris induction into Cooperstown should be seen as one of the biggest honors ever given to a former BYU athlete. He was a dominating figure in a game that puts a premium on pitching and controlling games.

Tuckett, 90, recruited Morris out of Highland Park High back in 1973 after “hearing good things” about him back in the days when recruiting was done by telephone and letters. Tuckett brought both Jack and his brother Tom to play for his Cougar baseball team.

Tom is currently a member of BYU’s geology department faculty, while Jack is back in baseball doing color commentary for the Minnesota Twins.

What stood out about Jack immediately for Tuckett was his athleticism and his competitive nature. “I don’t think I’ve ever coached a player as competitive as Jack.”

Jack Morris only played at BYU for two seasons and didn’t exactly have great statistics because Provo isn’t very pitcher-friendly due to its high altitude. He had an ERA of 4.89, started 21 games and won 10.

As a major-league ace, Morris was a World Series MVP. His 10-inning performance in 1991, a 1-0 shutout in Game 7 for the Twins over Atlanta, remains one of baseball’s great feats. He won more games than any pitcher in the majors in the ’80s and was the opening-day pitcher for his team 14 straight seasons.

During one half-decade stretch of his career, Morris was the highest paid pitcher in the American League. He was on the mound when Detroit beat San Diego in Game 5 of the World Series in 1984 where he had a legendary helicopter trip to get pizzas for his teammates who couldn’t get out of the stadium due to crowd celebrations. He won a third World Series ring with Toronto in 1992.

Tuckett said Morris could have played wide receiver on BYU’s football team or started for Stan Watts as a basketball player — he was that talented.

“He’s turned out to be such a great young man. Back in the day, I had no idea someday he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

After outstanding careers for the Tigers and Twins, Jack bought a ranch in Montana, where he lived before settling back in his hometown. He has frequently returned to BYU for baseball functions, banquets and as a special guest, said Tuckett.

“He is so articulate and polished and is just blossoming," Tuckett said. "He is so overwhelmed and shocked that he made it to the Hall of Fame. He’s so happy. He is tickled to be selected with Alan Trammell. They were teammates in two World Series and he credits him for helping him with all those hits and driving in runs and throwing guys out and stuff.”

Jack's brother Tom, said Tuckett, was also a very good pitcher and made it to Triple-A ball before retiring and deciding to make his living in academia.

“I’d heard about Jack from friends and then found out he was a member of the LDS Church. He had a great career at BYU and was very happy here," Tuckett explained. "We had him here to honor him when he won the World Series and many other times.”

Morris was so good, said Tuckett, he had him pinch hit for him, do a little pinch running, and even played a little infield because he’d done so in high school.

“He was an outstanding competitor and he was just fierce. When he took the mound, it was lights out.

“I knew he had a great arm and he had a great career. Then when he went so long and never made the Hall of Fame, I thought it wouldn’t ever happen. There was a little despondency for me.”

Tuckett was disappointed former Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy was not elected this time around.

“When it is up to sports writers, he should have been in on the first ballot. Nobody treated sports writers better than Dale Murphy. None were more kind, considerate and cooperative than he was," Tuckett said. "But he didn’t quite hit enough home runs and his batting average may not be high enough for some, but he came darned close. If there was ever a Hall of Famer it would be Dale Murphy.”

Today’s Hall of Fame vote comes from the Modern Era Committee.

Morris told Tuckett when he was with the Tigers, Sparky Anderson would tell him he was going to leave him on the mound as long as he could. “I told him, well don’t ever come get me because I’m going to finish what I start.”

Good for Morris.

Jack, your old college coach can hardly contain himself back here in the Rockies, and is ready to do cartwheels up Y Mountain.