The two most prolific home-run hitting
second basemen in the history of the Cincinnati Reds are a pair of
little dynamos, weighing no more than 160 pounds and standing no taller
than 5 feet, 8 inches.
Until Joe Morgan came along and
established a new record in 1973, the Cincinnati mark for most season
homers by a second baseman belonged to a fellow they called the
He was Alex Kampouris, a right-handed
hitter who made his mark at the age of 24. He then became a virtual
unknown the remainder of his career in the major leagues.
Kampouris, a product of the Class AAA
Pacific Coast League's Sacramento club, hit 17 home runs in 1937 and
seemed on the verge of becoming one of baseball's big names.
But he couldn't hit for a high average and
Kampouris lasted only parts of nine years in the big leagues, hitting
only 45 lifetime major league home runs.
When Kampouris set the Reds record of 17
in 1937, he improved his home-run total by an even dozen over the
When he wasn't hitting the ball over the
fence, however, he often was striking our. He batted only .249 that
season, not much in an era that featured a lot of high batting averages.
Kampouris played three full years with the
Reds. In 1938 he was sent to the New York Giants in a trade for Wally
Berger, the veteran outfielder who was also known for his
home-run-hitting prowess. The deal proved to be valuable for the Reds
because Berger was a big help in 1939 when the Reds won their first of
two consecutive pennants.
Kampouris spent 1940 in the minor leagues
and was out of the big leagues for good in 1944.
The Reds had many other fine second
basemen after Kampouris Lonnie Frey, Bobby Adams, Johnny Temple and even
Pete Rose. None were home-run hitters until Morgan joined the Reds in a
trade from the Houston Astros after the 1971 season.
Morgan, a left-handed hitter with a
powerful swing, had hit as many as 15 home runs in a season with
Houston. That was a remarkably high figure since he played half his
games in the Astrodome, well-known as a home-run-hitter's nightmare
because the flight of the ball does not carry as well indoors as it does
Joe hit 16 home runs in 1972, his first
year with the Reds, and nearly broke Kampouris' long-standing record. It seemed like only
a matter of time before Morgan would be known as the best
home-run-hitting second baseman in Reds history.
Morgan went into the record books in 1973
when he raked National League pitching for 26 home runs. Joe shot past
Kampouris' record in August as he blossomed into a power-hitter deluxe.
But Morgan wasn't finished with his
assault on the Reds record book. A better year was yet to come. That
year came in 1976 when he won his second straight National League Most
Valuable Player Award.
Batting third on Cincinnati's power-laden
World Championship team, Morgan hit 27 home runs, leaving a mark that is
unlikely to be topped for years to come.
If Alex Kampouris was the virtual epitome
of the flash-in-the-pan, Joe Morgan was the opposite: Indeed, a great
Reds home-run hitter.