May 28, 1980
Major league baseball player, college All-American in both soccer and baseball, high scoring basketball player and successful high school baseball coach all helped Meredith "Moe" Morhardt gain membership in the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame.
Currently director of athletics and varsity baseball and soccer coach at Gilbert High in Winsted, Morhardt joins Joe McCluskey, Jerry Fay, and Walter "Ty" Holland among the first group of sports figures with Manchester ties who will be inducted officially on Friday night, September 19 at the Army & Navy Club.
When Morhardt’s name entered the box score with the Chicago Cubs in 1960 it marked the first time a Manchester man was with a major league baseball team in 40 years.
One of the finest three-sport letter winners at Manchester High in baseball, basketball and soccer, Morhardt was even better on the diamond and soccer fields at the University of Connecticut. Although he led the school boys in scoring, he passed up the roundball sport at Storrs after his freshman year and concentrated on the other two sports.
This proved to be a wise choice as the tall, handsome Silk Towner, now 43, was named to both the NCAA All-American soccer and baseball teams in 1959 as a goalie and outfielder. He co-captained the UConns in his senior year.
It was while he was playing for Coach Tom Kelly at Manchester High that Morhardt first attracted the attention of major league scouts. The left-handed hitting outfielder batted .452 in his junior and senior seasons. At UConn, Morhardt was at his best in his senior year with a .365 average and was considered the finest collegiate pro prospect in New England.
Twelve of the 16 major league clubs were hot after Morhardt but it was the Cubs chief scout, Lenny Merullo, who got the signature on the dotted line.
While at UConn, Morhardt helped the Huskies win two NCAA District titles. Following the College World Series in 1959, Morhardt received a $50,000 bonus and signed with the Cubs and was assigned to Fort Worth. Philadelphia and Baltimore were the other clubs that impressed Morhardt the most while all but Washington, Cleveland, Kansas City and Los Angeles expressed a bonafide interest.
Morhardt’s baptism into pro ball was no overnight success. He started out with Fort Worth in the Texas League, was shuttled to Lancaster, Pa., in the Eastern League but when unable to master pitching, wound up in Paris, Ill., all in his maiden pro season. He didn’t scare too many hurlers in the Eastern League with a .205 batting mark but rebounded well in the Illinois circuit.
The following season was a rebounding one with Wenatchee, Wash., in the Class B League when Morhardt edged Jesus Alou for the batting title to the National League Cubs. He got into seven games with Chicago late in the 1962 season.
When the Cubs decided in the off-season to move popular home run hitter Ernie Banks from shortstop to first base to save wear and tear on his legs, it also signaled the end for the Manchester man in the majors.
Although he batted .368 in spring training in ’63, with Banks around, first base was all locked up and Morhardt was shuttled back to the minors, with stops at San Antonio in The Texas League, back to Wenatchee and Lancaster in the Eastern, and the pay-for-play days were at an end.
In 25 games with the Cubs, 18 in 1962, he hit only .206. Baseball remained part of Morhardt’s life and he’s been a far bigger success as a coach. In 11 seasons at Gilbert, Morhardt guided the school to six league titles and three CIAC Class M baseball championships.
Reproduced 2011 from www.mhs1955.com with permission of its webmaster Dick Jenkins.
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