Family members of the late Dan Morales would love to know more detail about the life of their beloved patriarch.But for now, they'll just continue to cheer the discovery of an old newspaper article that sheds new light on his most notable gift to the sports world - a scrapbook
Family members of the late Dan Morales would love to know more detail about the life of their beloved patriarch.
But for now, they'll just continue to cheer the discovery of an old newspaper article that sheds new light on his most notable gift to the sports world - a scrapbook that he kept on the San Antonio Missions/Bullets from 1949-64.
For 16 consecutive seasons, the San Antonio native and World War I veteran carefully tended to the book's baseball-oriented contents, cutting out news clips, box scores and standings and pasting them onto heavy paper.
After Morales died in 1976, the creation once dubbed as "the world's largest scrapbook" made its way into the homes of at least three other family members. A few weeks ago, it arrived at the administrative offices of the Missions. It was a donation to the Pacific Coast League ball club from San Marcos resident Brandon Morales, the proud great grandson of the man behind the project.
Missions officials say they are thrilled to have the book, which illuminates integration in the Texas League in the early 1950s and the dawn of three Hall-of-Fame careers -- Brooks Robinson, Billy Williams, and Joe Morgan.
Accounts of about 2,500 Missions games, home and away, are pasted into the book.
"It's unbelievable," Missions president Burl Yarbrough said. "We couldn't be more appreciative of the Morales family. Again, it means a ton to us."
The book may not actually weigh a ton, but it's close. It is about 10 inches thick, complete with bolts and screws and rigid covers on the front and the back.
"I remember when I had to walk it into the Missions' office the other day," Brandon Morales said. "That book got heavy, really, really quick … [Delia] at the front desk, I can only imagine what she was thinking. I was huffing and puffing after carrying that thing."
A few nights ago, Morales alerted the Missions' front office with a development -- that the book likely contained at least one article that made reference to the origins of the project itself. He was right. In June of 1962, esteemed Express-News sports writer Dan Cook wrote a column that profiled one of the Missions' most ardent fans, who had cobbled together a burgeoning scrapbook.
Cook's article detailed how the ball club planned to honor Dan Morales, a retired civil service worker, for attending his 1,000th game at old Mission Stadium on the city's south side. The revelation that the article, tucked deep in the book, had been found on Wednesday night was a stunner for the Morales family. A Missions staffer snapped a cell phone photo of the news page and transmitted it to Brandon Morales.
"No way!!!" he replied in a text. "That is amazing!!!"
By Thursday afternoon, family members were still buzzing about it.
Morales said that his aunt was especially moved by the newspaper photo of her broad-shouldered grandfather, who was shown holding the scrapbook - clutching it with both arms.
"I will tell you, it made her so happy, it brought her to tears," Morales said. "She was so happy about that. It brought a sense of pride. Of family pride. It brought some joyful moments to her, to myself and to my mom and my sister. It was just awesome to see that. To me, it was like history coming alive."
Cook reported in his column that Dan Morales had played baseball as a young man but that his exploits were mostly confined to the sandlots. In addition, he had never witnessed a Major League game. But the article also revealed that Morales, a retired civil service worker, had been bitten by the Missions "bug" and had missed only two home games since the end of the 1948 season. For those two games, Morales was hospitalized after a minor operation, according to the column.
Near the end of the story, a question was posed. Did Dan Morales attend many football games, since he lived so close to Alamo Stadium?
"Naw, not many at all," he told Cook, who wrote sports in the city for more than 50 years. "I don't care about football. Just baseball. They should play baseball year 'round."
Looking back, Brandon Morales speculated that his grandfather and possibly his own father - Dan Morales' son and grandson, respectively -- may have helped with construction of the scrapbook. But he doesn't know for sure because both are now deceased.
Morales, 39, a 1998 Clemens High School graduate, also speculated that the book's production likely ceased in 1964 because of the demise of professional baseball in the Alamo City after that season.
San Antonio went without a team until 1968, when a new organization started play at V.J. Keefe Stadium on the St. Mary's University campus.
In 1994, the Missions moved into Wolff Stadium at the corner of Callaghan Road and Interstate 90, on the far west side.
Brandon Morales said he doesn't come to many Missions games now because his home in San Marcos is more than 70 miles away. But when he lived in Schertz as a young man, he attended with his father at V.J. Keefe, where he delighted in eating ice cream snacks out of plastic cups shaped like baseball caps.
He said the best part of it, though, was listening to his father analyze the games. His dad, Tony Morales, who played at Edison and Temple Junior College, patiently would explain strategy and would sometimes predict the action before it happened.
What was the value of that experience? Brandon Morales said he considers it "priceless," especially after his father passed away two years ago with pancreatic cancer.
"For a father to pass down his love for something, (to pass) his knowledge to his son, like I say, it's really hard for me to put it in words," said Morales, who played varsity football, track and golf at Clemens.
Years ago, the idea of possibly passing along the scrapbook to someone else came up. Brandon Morales said he looked into it last year and did so again about three weeks ago, reaching out to a member of the media via Twitter. The message was relayed to Yarbrough, who promptly set the wheels in motion for delivery of the book to the team's Wolff Stadium offices.
"This just shows some of the passion that our fans have had over the years," Yarbrough said. "We're so proud of the history and the tradition that this franchise has, and that we've been a long-standing member of the community. For them to have confidence in us, to donate something that their family spent years working on … it just goes back to the (idea) that this franchise really does belong to the fans."
In 1962, the Missions celebrated one of their greatest fans, Dan Morales, who would come to the games and sit in the same spot each night -- high in the right field bleachers. Cook speculated in his column that Morales spent close to $1,000 over the years on Missions games, a nightly outlay of 75 cents for a ticket and 25 cents for parking.
In the newspaper photo, Morales isn't smiling. But, interestingly, you can almost see a gleam in his eye.
How can you tell? Well, maybe it was because the Missions had just awarded him with a free pass for the rest of the season.