LOS ANGELES — Charlie Morton never dreamed of this, any of it. As a kid, he wasn’t imagining himself closing out the seventh game of the World Series. He wasn’t thinking about the president of the Hall of Fame standing in front of him an hour later, asking to take his cap back to Cooperstown. And he certainly never thought he’d be the guy in the picture of the final out of the Houston Astros’ first-ever World Series win.
But now, Charlie Morton is all of those things.
He’s a World Champion, which happened when his Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7 of the World Series. He earned the win after pitching four innings of one-run relief to shut down the Dodgers, including a 1-2-3 ninth inning. And that hat, he’d actually lost it on the field while the Astros celebrated.
“I’m glad it wound up back in here,” Morton told Jeff Idelson, the head of the Hall of Fame, as they took a picture with the cap and Idelson added it to the mementos that will go back to Cooperstown with him.
“I really appreciate you doing that,” Morton said. “I really do. Thank you.”
In a room full of screaming Astros players and staff members who were showering each other with champagne and pouring beer on anyone who looked dry, Morton stood in the corner. On his face were a number of emotions — he looked happy at times, shocked at others and so appreciative of his journey to this point that it seemed tears might explode out of his eyes.
“Honestly, I just wanted to contribute,” said Morton, 33, a 10-year MLB vet in his first year with the Astros. “I wanted to finish the last few years of my career and be proud of it. And feel like I did a good job. There have been moments where I know I let my teammates down and I know I let fanbases down.”
If Morton doesn’t sound like your typical hard-nosed, confidence-oozing closer, it’s because he’s not. He pitched in relief exactly one time before Game 7 of the World Series. That was 2008, in his rookie year. He’s a guy with a 60-78 career record, a 4.41 ERA and enough of an injury history that he signed a two-year deal with the Astros after pitching in just four games last year with the Philadelphia Phillies.
But Morton revived his career this year in Houston. He won 14 games with a 3.62 ERA. His fastball had new life. He was throwing 96 mph in the ninth inning against the Dodgers. And it was still sort of odd he was there.
“It’s kinda hard to believe,” he said. “It’s strange.”
He wasn’t even sure he’d be throwing the ninth inning. But the Astros bullpen has been such a wild card lately, that manager A.J. Hinch stuck with Morton because he’d been getting the Dodgers out. Somebody had to. It wasn’t until Hinch told Morton to go grab a bat in the top of the ninth that he knew he was staying in.
“A.J. told me to grab a bat and take every pitch,” Morton said. “I said ‘OK, I’ll do that.’ ”
In the bottom of the ninth, when he got Corey Seager to ground out to second base, Morton looked around.
“I was fairly certain that was the last out,” he said.
Oh, it was and he was quickly mobbed by his teammates. Now, he will be the guy in the picture of the Astros World Series win — whether he wants that glory and attention or not.
“I was a small part of this,” Morton said. “You look at this clubhouse, this is a clubhouse that’s full of guys that contributed and no one is talking about them. I don’t want that [attention], I want to be part of this group. I’m proud to be part of this group.”
A few minutes later, up came Alex Bregman, the young Astros third baseman, who is everything Morton isn’t personality-wise — mainly loud and confident. He dipped into the corner with Morton and yelled: “Will somebody get this guy a wheelbarrow for his balls?”
He wasn’t talking about baseballs, by the way.
On the other side of the clubhouse, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow had just finished talking about some of the pillars of the team — George Springer and Carlos Correa. So what about Charlie Morton, the unlikely guy who got the final out in the World Series?
“It’s perfect,” Luhnow said. “Because we’re not about the superstars, we’re about spreading out the offense, spreading out the pitchers, spreading out the relievers. We have great players, but we’re not relying on one guy and tonight was a perfect example of that.
“He deserves it,” Luhnow said of Morton. “This is a special moment for him and he deserves it. He’s always been a good pitcher. Now he’s a great pitcher.”
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