Longtime Nashville Sounds fans will never forget the club's first PA announcer Chuck Morgan. Morgan had a unique style of announcing players such as Sounds infielder Gene Menees. Echoing across the outfield would be: "now batting, number 10, second baseman "Genoooooooooooooooooooo Meneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!"
"I guess that got started when I was about six years old playing wiffle ball games in my back yard," said Morgan who is in his 31st season as the Texas Rangers PA announcer. "When I played wiffle ball I was the PA and play-by-play all at the same time. That's probably where it got started. I was a huge Wilt Chamberlain fan. I used to listen to the Philadelphia 76ers games on the radio. I could hear the PA guy in the background. He would say, 'basket by Hal Greeeeeeeeeeeer' and I would start doing that at an early age. It just happened. When I had Geno Menees it just came out that way."
Morgan is from Southern Illinois (Marion) and began working in Nashville in 1974 at age 19. He entered the radio business working at Nashville station WMAK. Later, Morgan continued his radio career at WSM where he worked with Ralph Emery. Emery told Morgan, "there are more hillbillies in Southern Illinois than in Nashville."
With his involvement with WSM, Morgan landed a dream job by becoming the official announcer at the Grand Ole Opry. Morgan was announcing country music performers before professional baseball players.
"While growing up my parents and I were country music fans and we watched almost every show out of Nashville including "Hee Haw" and things like that," said Morgan. "I found myself 12 or 13 years later working on stage with some of these people that my parents and I were fans. I was a wide-eyed kid. Back in those days the Opry was such a family atmosphere and it always felt like every Friday and Saturday night was just a huge family reunion.
"Obviously I got to be back stage visiting dressing room to dressing room. Sometimes I'd run into a special guest visiting like Roy Acuff always had Gene Autry or Stan Musial or somebody like that around. It would help me during the week for my radio program. There were some things I could talk about during the week that happened on the Opry.
"As a kid growing up I was a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan. The first player I really followed was Stan Musial. I met him one night in Roy Acuff's dressing room and he explained to him who I was and that I was a big Cardinals fan. Musial asked me for my address and about three weeks later I received an autographed Stan Musial bat in the mail. I've hung on to that all these years. One night Roy Rogers gave me a bullet out of his gun.
Morgan hosted an "All Night Trucking" show on the radio from 10:00 PM until 4:00 AM. It was one of the first satellite-delivered radio programs that was produced in the Opryland Studios. Occasionally, you would see Morgan on television when he popped-upped in the famous cornfield on the television comedy program "Hee Haw."
With his passion for baseball, Morgan pursued the possibility of announcing professional baseball players in a new stadium with the talk of Nashville acquiring a minor league baseball club.
"I was a huge baseball fan growing up," Morgan said. "When I got an inkling that there was going to be a baseball team, possibly in Nashville, I called Larry Schmittou (Sounds president and part-owner) and said, Larry, when you ever think about having a PA guy give me a call. He told me they were a long way from deciding on that, but he'd give me a holler. I talked to Paul Eells (TV sports anchor) who I was working with at WSM. I asked Paul if he had any pull with Larry to give him a call. Larry knew who I was and listened to me on the radio.
"Then I had some friends in Conway (Twitty) and Jerry Reed that helped. Larry called me one day when I had a high fever and a touch of the flu. It was snowing about five inches, but there wasn't anything that was going to keep me from seeing Larry to do that job. When I walked in I think that told Larry this guy must love baseball to do this. After the first time I interviewed with him, he told me I had the job if I wanted it."
The Sounds played their first season in 1978 in new Herschel Greer Stadium as the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds in the Southern League. Nashville was excited with the new ball club, as minor league attendance records were broken in the city.
"I've been real lucky to work in these family-type situations," said Morgan. "I think Larry and Farrell Owens (Sounds GM) at the time made me feel like I was working with my best friends and brothers. It was just again a family atmosphere. It was so fun to be part of something new like that. The success we had made it fun every night. My favorite times were working with Tom Squires (Sounds beat writer for the Tennessean).
"Tom was the official scorer and we sat side by side. We'd sit there and talk sports and tell stories. Having a chance to watch professional baseball every night and being apart of something that started up was a special time. When the Savannah Braves came to play us I would get excited to think that someday some of these guys are going to be playing with the Atlanta Braves. After I left Nashville for Texas, I'd see some of these guys that had gone through Nashville.
The New York Yankees became the Sounds Double-A affiliate from 1980-84. In 1980, Morgan was given an opportunity that became the highlight of his young announcing career when he made a special trip to New York City.
"When Nashville became affiliated with the Yankees, there were a contingent of Sounds fans that thought I was good enough to work in Yankee Stadium," said Morgan. "They approached Larry with the idea and he talked with George Steinbrenner and it happened. The Sounds flew me to New York and I did a September, Saturday afternoon game between the Yankees and the Blue Jays. Bob Shepard, the longtime PA guy for the Yankees, asked me if he needed to stay. I asked him to stay while I did the starting line-ups.
"After the first inning he went home and it was just me. It was a chance of a lifetime to do a game on a stage like Yankee Stadium, but also to spend about an hour with Bob Shepard. I had a great talk with him about all the things he had seen in his years with the Yankees. I got to meet Phil Rizzuto and he had some very complimentary things about my work that afternoon. After I did the line-ups and made it through the first couple of innings, it was just like being back home at Greer Stadium."
It would become a challenge for Morgan to handle his duties with the Sounds and his primary job in radio and television.
"It really got worse when I was given more responsibility at WSM and they changed my radio time," said Morgan. "I had to leave Greer Stadium early in my last year (1980). I told Larry I wasn't sure if this was going to work or not. Larry was kind enough to say it was going to work. I would leave the ballpark at 9 o'clock and to go to WSM to work on prep for the radio. I think at first he'd have Ty Coppinger or Jim Beard fill in for a while.
"One night I was getting ready to leave and we could hear thunder and lightening in the background at Greer Stadium. As I am leaving I hear Jim Beard saying over the PA, 'there's some rain on the way but there is nothing serious.' I got about 10 minutes from the stadium and it was like one of the worse storms ever. So thereafter every time we'd have a rain threat at Greer Larry would say, 'well, it's nothing serious.' Sometimes it would make for long nights since I was on the radio until four in the morning. But I enjoyed it."
Morgan said he enjoyed being around Sounds players like Gene Menees, George Weicker, Willie McGee and Buck Showalter. Showalter has been the Baltimore Orioles manager since 2010. When the Orioles play the Rangers in Arlington, the two often chat about the old Nashville days and baseball in general.
Morgan's growing responsibilities at WSM forced him to forego his PA duties with the Sounds after three years (1978-80). He struggled in deciding to move to Texas to be the Rangers PA announcer in 1983 when the opportunity became available. Schmittou was the Rangers Vice-President for Marketing for three years (1983-86) while maintaining his interest in the Sounds.
"I had a wonderful career going at WSM and we had that satellite radio show," Morgan said. "At that time the Nashville Television Network was starting and we were turning out shows like popcorn. I had all these television shows and had the radio thing going strong. I had just received the Country Music Association's Major Market Disc Jockey of the Year award. I had all this good stuff going for me.
"So I got a call from Larry, I believe in January 1983. He said he was taking a shot in the dark working with the Rangers and if I ever thought about leaving Nashville would I like to work in the big leagues. I thought about it for about a week. I loved baseball so much and I probably had gotten a little bigheaded at WSM. I was thinking I was worth more than maybe I was.
"I looked at it as an opportunity to maybe leverage something against WSM. But the more I thought about it, I decided to join Larry. Larry had helped me so much and meant so much to my career. I thought I owed Larry to come down to Texas and help him out. I did and it turned out pretty good."
Morgan has been the Texas Rangers PA announcer since 1983 except for 2002 when he was with Kansas City for one season. In 2001 and 2003, The Sporting News named Morgan the best public address announcer in Major League Baseball. With the Rangers, Morgan introduced some of the greatest baseball players to don a big league uniform that included two World Series (2010 and 2011) and an All-Star Game (1995). And including one special relationship with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan who finished a 27-year MLB career with the Rangers from 1989-93.
Ryan became a part-owner of the Rangers in 2010 that would include titles of president and CEO. He sold his interest in the Rangers in October 2013 and is now an advisor to the Houston Astros.
"I've been able to see some of the greatest moments in baseball history," said Morgan. "It's great to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. When they are showing Nolan Ryan's 5000th career strikeout you can hear me in the background announcing that 5000th strikeout batter. And I got to see Nolan's seventh no-hitter. Nolan's not a guy that likes to go around and do speaking engagements on his own. I kind of got to be his personal guy. He calls it our dog and pony show.
"We've probably done a couple of hundred appearances together. It's just a little fringe thing for me being in Texas to hang around a Hall of Famer like Nolan Ryan that is pretty special. I was thinking that we have (Derek) Jeter this week for his last three games this year. I was thinking back to the days before these guys did their 'farewell' tours. We used to just announce their names and they'd come out and tip their cap. I was here when Carl Yastrzemski made his last trip to Texas and I've seen players like Reggie Jackson.
"Then to be part of something where you've worked so long and you win two American League pennants. Suddenly you are doing the starting line-ups on Fox Sports for the World Series that is just unbelievable. It doesn't get any better than that. It's just as exciting when the Sounds won that first Southern League championship (1979). You just say this is what it's all about. I have seen so many great players, great plays, and historical moments. The Nashville Sounds and Larry made it possible for me."
In his 31 years with the Rangers, Morgan has assumed many roles and responsibilities other than his PA work.
"Larry was smart enough to know when he invited me down here that you're not going to make a living just doing PA," Morgan said. "The first thing he had me doing was selling program ads, promotions and suites. Today, including my PA work, I'm in charge of all the promotional give-aways, all the game presentation in the park and I'm involved with a lot of the marketing decisions. It's fun to do cap and bat give-always. It still goes back to working with the Sounds.
Morgan said the last time he was in Nashville was three years ago. He parked his car and strolled through Greer Stadium finding great memories. Morgan was asked if he carried his unique style of announcing players to Texas as he did in Nashville.
"Yes, I have and I continue today," said Morgan. "We had Steve Buechele, so it was Steve Booooooooooochele. And I've done the same with Juan Gonzalez and now with Adrian Beltre.
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