Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jan 19: The Rookie Is Born

On this day in 1964, teacher-turned-major league baseball pitcher Jim Morris was born in Brownwood, Texas.
In 1999 at age 35, Morris became a rookie pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. A science teacher and baseball coach at Big Lake High School in Texas, he was urged by his students to try out for the Devil Rays.
Morris had always wanted to be a big league pitcher, and he was actually drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers when he was a younger man. Unfortunately he blew his arm out in minor league ball and it seemed his career was over at age 23.
But when Tampa Bay scouts saw that Morris (now in his mid-30s) could throw a ball 98 MPH, he was signed to a minor league contract.
Late in 1999 he was called up to the majors and pitched his debut against the Texas Rangers. He struck out the only batter he faced that day on 4 pitches! Morris went on to make 21 more big league appearances before a shoulder injury ended his short but amazing career in 2000.
He co-wrote a book about his baseball experiences titled The Oldest Rookie. That book was the inspiration for the 2002 Disney live-action feature The Rookie - in which actor Dennis Quaid portrayed Morris!

Click HERE for more January 19 Disney history.

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