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The Slugging Second Sackers: KAMPOURIS/MORGAN

         

   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 Galloping Greek.

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 previous year.

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 outdoors.

 

 

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.

 

         
       

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