Facts about Jim Morris
Jim Morris Biography
Jim Morris was the feel-good sports story of 1999, when at 35 he became a rookie pitcher for pro baseball’s Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Jim Morris had played pro ball in his past: he was drafted by the Milwaukie Brewers in 1983 and joined their minor-league organization, but arm injuries and bad performance kept him from advancing beyond single-A teams. He was cut by the Brewers, then cut again by the Chicago White Sox in 1989, and gave up on baseball to become a teacher instead.
A decade later, he was a science teacher and baseball coach in a Texas high school when, urged on by his students, he attended a Devil Rays tryout. When Tampa Bay scouts found that he could throw his fastball at 98 MPH, they signed Morris to a minor league contract.
Late in 1999 he was called up to the major league club and made his unlikely debut against the Texas Rangers. Morris pitched in 21 games for Tampa Bay in 1999 and 2000 before shoulder surgery ended his 2000 season; he retired with a sore shoulder while in spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001. He co-wrote a 2001 book about his experiences, titled The Oldest Rookie, and his story was made into a 2002 feature film, The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid as Morris.
Jim Morris struck out the very first batter he faced in the major leagues, Royce Clayton of the Texas Rangers… By coincidence, Morris played AAA ball for the Durham Bulls, the team celebrated in the 1988 Kevin Costner movie Bull Durham… Jim Morris’s story is sometimes compared to that of Vince Papale, who was a 30-year-old rookie for football’s Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. Papale’s story was also made into a film, the 2006 feature Invincible.