Former UW coach Morton dies at 74
By Larry Stone
Seattle Times staff reporter
18 Jan 2006, Seattle Times, Seattle WA:
Morton, a baseball pioneer who played seven years in the major leagues
before becoming the University of Washington's first African-American
head coach in 1972, has died at age 74 after a long illness.
Mr. Morton, who grew up in a row house in Washington D.C., was a member
of the Seattle Angels team that won the Pacific Coast League pennant
in 1966, and also played the 1970 season in Japan.
He was the first black player signed by the Detroit Tigers (though others
beat him to the major leagues), and in 1957 became the first black player
on the Durham Bulls in the then-Class B Carolina League, leading them
to their first championship.
"[Black players] always had to stay in private homes on the road,"
he told a reporter in 1997. "But I'll tell you what kind of teammates
I had in Durham they wouldn't go and eat in a restaurant without
me. Somebody would always go in and get sandwiches for everybody, then
they'd bring them to the bus and we'd go on our way."
A long-time Seattle-area resident after his retirement from baseball,
Mr. Morton worked for Boeing and was a retired Coast Guard reservist.
"He had a great life," said friend Mark Rogers. "He did
a lot of wonderful things, not only in sports but in the community.
He was a real gentleman."
Mr. Morton, an outfielder, played in the major leagues from 1961-69,
including stints with the Tigers, Milwaukee Braves and California Angels.
During his 15-game tenure with Milwaukee in 1963, his roommate was Hall
of Famer Hank Aaron.
In 451 games, Mr. Morton had a career .267 average with 14 home runs
and 128 runs batted in. A prime pinch-hitter, his best season was 1967
with the Angels, when he hit .313 in 80 games.
"I got to be very close friends with him," said former first
baseman Don Mincher, a teammate with the Angels. "He was a great
player, and a great person. We talked about a lot of different aspects
of life. He was so intelligent I would classify him as a perfect
In 1965, Mr. Morton nearly retired when the Angels sent him to Seattle's
PCL team, but according to newspaper reports, was talked out of it by
Angels manager Bob Lemon and the team's general manager, Edo Vanni.
He wound up playing four seasons with the Angels, 1966-69, then moved
to Tokyo to play the '70 season with the Toei Flyers.
In 1972, Mr. Morton succeeded Ken Lehman as the Huskies' head baseball
coach. He had already settled in Seattle and was working as director
of boys' sports at Bush School. He continued to work at Bush while also
coaching at Washington.
In five seasons at UW marked by financial problems in the athletic department
that limited scholarships, he compiled a 48-101 record.