Reporting Colin Dunlap
PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Pass the collection plate.
Let’s raise the funds for a Charlie Morton statue.
Right there, on the corner of West General Robinson and Federal Street on the North Shore, a big, bronze Charlie Morton likeness.
The guy with the 24-46 career record deserves it.
Morton, the free-spirit aficionado of Outlaw Country music, who might be the most kind and genuine person this side of Mother Teresa, turned nasty for one pitch in the Pirates’ 4-0 victory against Cincinnati on Tuesday night.
And with that one pitch, Morton should earn the respect of Pirates fans for generations.
More important, however, Morton commanded the admiration of every guy inside that clubhouse with a gold ‘P’ on their cap.
See how it’s done James McDonald?
Were you paying attention Francisco Liriano?
After a push and pull of bean balls and brush backs that dates back to early last August, when Pirates superstar Andrew McCutchen was cracked with an Aroldis Chapman fastball, the Pirates have largely been bullied and tormented by Cincinnati and manager Dusty Baker.
For many, the chapter penned on Monday night by the Reds was the ultimate choice in what has become one, big Encyclopedia Brown book for the Pirates.
Should the Pirates finally have a starter retaliate, or should the Pirates simply go out, ignore the rogue style of baseball and keep a clear focus on trying to win.
HIT SOMEONE: Turn to Page 11
IGNORE IT: Turn to Page 24
Charlie Morton turned to Page 11.
With the very first pitch he threw, Morton walloped Shin-soo Choo with a 93 mph fastball in the leg.
Headed into Tuesday, the Pirates were faced with that choice because of the events of Monday, as McCutchen was plunked by Reds starter Mike Leake (which may or may not have had intent) and Neil Walker had his light tower buzzed by Chapman (which looked to have intent).
No one outside the Pirates’ clubhouse knows precisely what was said in the hours between the loss on Monday and Morton throwing that first pitch on Tuesday.
But know this: Whether Morton was given a directive or whether he unilaterally decided the first guy who stepped in was going to wear a bruise home, he carried out his role swimmingly.
That’s something James McDonald — now trying to pitch his way back to the big leagues — didn’t do the day after McCutchen was drilled last August. McDonald hid from the situation.
Don’t lose sight of Liriano’s aversion to the situation, either. On Monday, after McCutchen was hit in the fourth inning, Liriano acted as if he was allergic to throwing inside to Reds hitters.
That is what makes Charlie Morton all the more of the exemplary teammate here — that other guys had the chance to take a stand and walked away, refusing to enter into the vortex of an uneasy situation.
Shame on them; good on ya, Charlie.
It was all so fitting that, perhaps, Morton’s best day as a teammate came at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. It was in that same venue that, in 2010, his world was crumbling.
The night of May 27 that season, he sat in then-Pirates manager John Russell’s office after working only two innings and yielding five earned runs. His ERA was above 9.00, his record 1-9 and he was forced from the club’s starting rotation.
From there, after leaning on a mental conditioning coach for assistance and pushing through the rigors of a comeback from Tommy John surgery, Morton has fought back.
Back in June of 2010, Morton and I sat in the stands in a Class AAA ballpark in Scranton, Pa. as batting practice was going on.
We talked about life.
About country music.
About how he was back with the Indianapolis Indians.
About his love for the South Carolina Low country where he makes his home.
Morton told me that day, in a story that ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette before his Tommy John setback, but as he was in Class AAA working to get back to the big leagues: “Regardless of what happens, I like who I am, like what I’ve become. I’m maturing, and I’ve grown up a lot in a life sense. … I’ve been given a tremendous opportunity, and I can’t mess this up.”
He was given another opportunity on Tuesday night; to stand up for his teammates.
Morton didn’t mess it up.
It was a performance worthy of a statue.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.