DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Our guest, Heidi Schreck, wrote and starred in the play whose title is both serious and tongue-in-cheek, reflecting how the play itself is both serious and funny. It's called "What The Constitution Means To Me." It's about what the Constitution used to mean to her when she was 15, winning prize money in Constitution contests, and what it means to her now as a feminist, realizing the ways in which women, people of color and many immigrants were excluded from the rights the Constitution guaranteed. The play was filmed on Broadway by director Marielle Heller, and that film premiers today on Amazon Prime video.
When Schreck was 15, she competed in contests sponsored by the American Legion. Contestants had to make a speech demonstrating their understanding of the Constitution and discuss its importance in their lives. Schreck won enough money to put herself through college. In the show, she alternates between her 15-year-old self, who thought the Constitution was magical, and herself today, who sees the ways it's failed to protect people. Schreck is a playwright and an actress. She's also written episodes of the TV shows "Billions," "Nurse Jackie" and "I Love Dick." She spoke to Terry last year.
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TERRY GROSS: Heidi Schreck, welcome to FRESH AIR. I don't know if this is the right thing to say or not, but had we been good friends and you came to me and said, I'm going to do this, well, you know, show about the Constitution, I might have tried to talk you out of it.
HEIDI SCHRECK: (Laughter).
GROSS: But I actually love the show. So I want you to describe the show in your words.
SCHRECK: Sure. Yes, a few friends did try to talk me out of it, actually. So my show, "What The Constitution Means To Me," is a recreation of a contest I did as a teenage girl. I would travel the country giving speeches about the Constitution for prize money at American Legion halls. Basically, I decided to follow the prompt of the original contest, which was to find a personal connection between my own life and the Constitution.
And in attempting to do that, I ended up writing a story about four generations of women in my family, about how the Constitution shaped their lives, about the ways it failed to protect them and about the ways it shaped my own life and also failed to protect me.
GROSS: So, you know, your show is, you know, about, like, the strength of the Constitution. It's also very much about the imperfections of the Constitution, the silences and the absences in the Constitution and the people it fails to protect. But when you were 15 and participating in these Constitution debates or performances, was the understanding you were given by the American Legion, that sponsored this competition, that the Constitution was pretty much perfect and it was your job to, like, describe the ways in which it was perfect?
SCHRECK: I don't know if that was the directive given to me by the American Legion or not. I actually don't remember that. I believe that it was my understanding of the Constitution. I believed that about the Constitution at 15. I believed it was perfect. I believed it was a tool of justice. I did not realize, as a 15-year-old girl, that I - how profoundly I had been left out of it. I didn't realize that it didn't protect me. The truth is, as a teenager, I just had complete faith in this document.
GROSS: So one of the things that you talk about in the show is what the Constitution has to say about immigration, what it doesn't have to say about immigration and who becomes a citizen. Your great-great-grandmother, you say, was considered a good immigrant when she came in 1879. Your great-great-grandfather, actually, ordered her from a catalogue. She was a mail-order bride.
GROSS: And he was in the state of Washington, where you were born and grew up. And you say Washington needed more women at the time. Why did they need more women?
SCHRECK: They needed more women in Washington because the male-to-female ratio at the time was 9 to 1. In fact, at some points around this time - this was, like, the late 19th century - it was even higher. I think at one point, it was even 30 to 1. So they were doing everything they could to bring in more women. There were a lot of catalogues. There were things called - there was one called the "Matrimonial Times," which is, I believe, where he ordered her from, although I can't - I've tried to fact-check it, and it's a little bit tricky. There were also - he was German, so there were also a lot of, like, German-language papers and sort of catalogues and magazines with advertisings in the back that catered particularly to German immigrants, so...
GROSS: So what would happen? Like, women like your great-great-grandmother would go to the publisher of the catalogue and say, put me in it; I want to be eligible to...
SCHRECK: Yes. Or...
GROSS: ...Come to America as a bride?
SCHRECK: Yeah, or their parents would do that. I think there were - in my research, I noticed that a lot of times it was parents who were poor and couldn't figure out, you know, what to do with their daughters who couldn't make money. So they would go and put an ad in for their daughter.
GROSS: So how much did your great-great-grandfather pay? Do you have any idea?
SCHRECK: OK. So this is a slight bit of poetic license because I don't actually - we don't have any records. I've done a ton of research, and so I'm just basing the $75 on the research that I did on what people were likely to pay at that time. There were - so sometimes men would pay the family. So I came up with the figure, $75, by researching. I'm not actually sure that that's what he paid for her.
GROSS: Would that be $75 in today's money or 19th century money?
GROSS: Because $75 then would have been a lot of money.
SCHRECK: I think it was a lot, yes. I think - I mean, this is based on research that I did. But I think that it - yeah, you would save a lot of money for this type of transaction.
GROSS: So you write that your great-great-grandparents, the women, your great-great-grandmothers, were considered, quote, "good immigrants." Who were considered the bad immigrants at the time?
SCHRECK: So my great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents, especially the women, were considered good immigrants because they just needed women to populate this area. They were also white, which at that - you know, was considered, quote-unquote, (laughter) "good immigrant." At the time, the, quote-unquote, "bad immigrant" was considered to be an immigrant from China.
So there was - there's a huge history of violent discrimination against Chinese immigrants in this country starting with - in 1882, the government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which made it illegal for immigrants to come from China. They had decided at that time that Chinese immigrants were dangerous, that they were stealing jobs from, quote-unquote, "Americans." And so they passed this law that was not overturned until 1943, when China became our ally in World War II. And not only did they pass this horrible law, but there was a - there was so much violence, actually, toward Chinese immigrants. Especially in Washington state, where I'm from, there are stories of incredible violence against those immigrants.
GROSS: Since President Trump has such strong anti-immigrant rhetoric and attitudes towards certain groups of people - like Mexicans, Muslims - I'm wondering what - you know, you've been studying this (laughter) as an adult and as a teenager - what does the Constitution have to say about who becomes a citizen? And what is it silent about?
SCHRECK: The Constitution doesn't have much to say about who becomes a citizen. So the 14th Amendment says that any person born on U.S. soil and subject to the jurisdiction thereof is a citizen of the United States and the state in which they reside. So it does - it is very clear on birthright citizenship. Excuse me. Although it also has this clause - and subject to the jurisdiction thereof - which is what the government used to exclude Indigenous peoples from becoming citizens when the 14th Amendment was passed. So that's a little bit confusing.
But most legal scholars have come down on the side of birthright citizenship, that that is a constitutional right, which as we know was questioned by the Trump administration last year. Most people agree that there is no question about that; birthright citizenship is our right. Beyond that, it doesn't give any guidance about immigration, about how many people should be allowed to immigrate, about where those people might be from. There is no language about that.
The one thing I did learn while making this is that the 14th Amendment does guarantee that immigrants be given all the due process rights that citizens have. So it uses the word person rather than citizen when it talks about due process, which is the right to a fair trial, which is the right not to be imprisoned without a fair trial, the right not to have anything seized from you. So there are quite a few protections for immigrants in the 14th Amendment that I question - I question right now whether those are being upheld.
GROSS: I think a lot of people have no idea that people who aren't citizens would still have those rights.
SCHRECK: I don't think so, either. And, you know, there is also in the - I believe it was the '80s, though I might be getting this wrong - the Supreme Court also upheld the right of children of undocumented immigrants to attend public school. That's also a case that was decided. So immigrants have actually quite a few rights under our Constitution, even if they are undocumented. And I think it's an important time to remember that and fight for that.
DAVIES: We'll hear more of Terry's interview with Heidi Schreck recorded last year after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
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DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's interview with Heidi Schreck. A filmed version of her play "What The Constitution Means To Me" premiers on Amazon Prime today. The play is about what the Constitution meant to her when she was 15 and won a lot of scholarship money at competitions talking about the Constitution.
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GROSS: So I want to move to another chapter of your play and of your life, and this has to do with when you got pregnant at the age of 21.
GROSS: You weren't - you weren't married. It was somebody in the same theater group that you were in. And this leads you to reflect on how the Constitution has been used to fully legalize birth control and to legalize abortion. Now, you grew up in an abortion-free zone in Washington. What...
SCHRECK: (Laughter) Yes.
GROSS: The state of Washington. What did that mean?
SCHRECK: So eastern Washington when I was growing up was an abortion-free zone. It just meant there was no clinic within, like, a three-hour radius that performed abortions. There was a Planned Parenthood in my town and they, you know, prescribed birth control and did pregnancy testing and all of that. But you could not - you could not go anywhere for an abortion.
GROSS: When you got pregnant when you were 21 and weren't married, you say you couldn't go to Planned Parenthood because your mother's good friend worked there and that you didn't want your mother to know.
GROSS: Even though your mother was a feminist, you were sure she'd find it very upsetting. And you couldn't go to the pharmacy because you might be recognized there - same problem; it would get back to your mother.
GROSS: But you did go to a clinic that advertised, like, free pregnancy testing. But then when you walked in, you realized it's one of those, like, anti-abortion groups?
GROSS: So how did you figure that out, like, right away? The people there - the women there were going to try to talk you out of an abortion as opposed to helping you get one.
SCHRECK: Well, I knew as soon as I walked in the door because there was a huge poster that said, adoption is a beautiful choice. And then there were pictures of fetuses up all over the walls. So I knew as soon as I walked in. I decided to stay in part because I just - I really needed the test, and it was the only place that guaranteed me anonymity. And also I'm - I was raised to be an incredibly polite person. And the woman at the counter, the receptionist, was very lovely, very friendly. And it's just my natural inclination to be polite and sweet and friendly back (laughter). So I felt it would be rude to leave, which is crazy to think about now. But at that age, I didn't want to be rude to her.
GROSS: So you stayed and then found a place where you could - you stayed for the spiel and then found a place where you could get an abortion.
SCHRECK: Well, I stayed for the spiel and, actually, for the test. And I remember - this is seared into my memory, actually - that, you know, she was - first of all, she was the only person I told, except for my boyfriend at the time. She was the only person I told maybe for 20 years. Even though I'm very liberal and I'm a feminist and I'm surrounded by women friends who are the same, I - the taboo of talking about it, the sort of cultural shame around talking about it affected me deeply. And it - actually, it wasn't until I started performing this show that I found out that many of my girlfriends had also had abortions. We didn't talk about it with each other.
So this woman, Marcy (ph), was the only person I told. And she was incredibly kind to me, which is what I needed. I needed someone to hug me at this moment and tell me everything was going to be OK. And when I walked to the bathroom to take the test, she - I remember she actually followed me and tucked in the tag at the back of my dress and said, I just can't help myself - always a mother. And yeah, I remember it - that was what I needed at that moment. I needed a mother.
And one thing I understand now is that until women can talk about their abortions, until it becomes a thing that is not taboo to talk about, it will be very difficult to move the needle politically because, say, if you're a young woman with a conservative dad and your dad doesn't understand that you had an abortion, if people don't understand that the women they love in their lives have had abortions, it's going to be very difficult for them to see it, see the importance it holds for women in this culture to have equality, to have bodily autonomy, to have decision-making power over their own bodies. It's very difficult to move that needle if women won't talk about it.
GROSS: I should mention here that you say you were using birth control when you got pregnant.
GROSS: So this chapter of your life leads you to reflect in your show on how the Constitution was used to fully legalize contraception and then fully legalize abortion. And it's amazing to think about that. It was only in the '70s that birth control was fully legalized in all of the states for single women. An earlier decision, the Griswold v. Connecticut decision in 1965, legalized birth control in all states for married women. But it took years later until single women were included.
SCHRECK: Yes, yes.
GROSS: How was the Constitution used to legalize birth control? Because there were places where it was not legal and wasn't necessarily a law that was followed, but it was certainly on the books.
SCHRECK: Yes, the law was on the books, and they needed to find a way to assert the constitutional right to birth control. In 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut, they essentially decided that case under the umbrella of privacy. So privacy is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, but they use the 9th Amendment and the 14th Amendment to sort of cobble together all of these rights and say, OK, this is a private decision between a husband and a wife, to use birth control, and the government cannot infringe on that decision, cannot - the government can't, you know, walk into people's bedrooms and decide what they do.
So that's how they decided birth control. Then in '72, they finally made it legal for single women. And then when they were deciding Roe v. Wade, they decided the right to choice also under the right to privacy, saying it was a private decision between a doctor and his patient (laughter). So, essentially, they sort of decided Roe v. Wade in part by basing it on a doctor's right - a doctor's right to privacy and a doctor's right to do what they believe is right. So this, unfortunately, has been a problem for reproductive freedom because it bases our right to control our own bodies, to have bodily autonomy, on this right to privacy that's actually quite vague and confusing.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that if the right to reproductive freedom could have been based in equal protection under the law, with the idea that you can't possibly be equal in this country, as a woman, if you don't have bodily autonomy, if you don't have the right to decide what to do with your own body - the right to decide whether to have children or not, if childbearing is obligatory - then you can't possibly be equal in this country.
GROSS: I didn't know this until seeing your play, but the majority decision in Griswold, which upheld the right of married couples to use contraception, was written by Justice William O. Douglass, who - I found this out from your play - at the time, was having an affair with a college student. So what does it say to you that, you know, the decision was written by all white men and that the majority opinion writer was having an affair with...
GROSS: I don't know whether they were using contraception or not. But women were in the position, until recently, where decisions about their lives and bodies and power were being decided exclusively, on the Supreme Court level, by men.
SCHRECK: Yes. It says to me, first of all, that there is a level of hypocrisy in our laws and on the Supreme Court. I don't know if William O. Douglas and his girlfriend were using contraception or not, but my guess is they were. And, actually, if you listen to the whole Griswold recording, there's a sense that all the men, the male justices, know that birth control is something that people use (laughter).
GROSS: And it was legal in most states at the time.
SCHRECK: It was absolutely legal in most states. But the fact that they found it so difficult to figure out how to, like - how to affirm that it was constitutionally protected in spite of this, in spite of the fact that, like, they all knew that people use birth control, the fact that they couldn't even, in Griswold v. Connecticut, constitutionally affirm the constitutional protection for single women to use it is absurd, given that it's something that everyone was using. It's so clear, especially when you listen to the justices, and if you listen to Griswold v. Connecticut, they're clearly so uncomfortable talking about this. They clear their throats all the time. It's, like, very torturous for them.
DAVIES: Heidi Schreck speaking with Terry Gross last year. A filmed version of her Broadway play "What The Constitution Means To Me" begins streaming on Amazon Prime today. We'll hear more of that interview after a break. Also, we remember baseball's Joe Morgan, who was one of the few second basemen to make it into the Hall of Fame. He died Sunday at the age of 77. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
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DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Let's get back to Terry's interview with Heidi Schreck. A filmed version of her play "What The Constitution Means To Me" begins streaming today on Amazon Prime. It's about what the Constitution used to mean to her when she was 15, winning prize money in Constitution contests sponsored by the American Legion, and what it means to her now as a feminist, realizing the ways in which women, people of color and many immigrants were excluded from the rights the Constitution guaranteed. In the play, she also describes personal and family traumas and makes connections to the Constitution's protects or lack thereof.
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GROSS: So I want to get back to your family, your great-great grandmother came here basically as a mail-order bride. She came from Germany to the state of Washington. Your great-grandmother and your grandmother were both married to men who abused them. Your grandmother, Bette, who you knew very well, her first husband died in an accident. He was hit by a falling tree. She remarried a man who physically abused her, who beat her up, who broke bones. And the stepfather - her second husband also sexually abused your mother and your aunt. And you say it was your mother who finally called the police and tried to stop this. How old were you when your mother told you this?
SCHRECK: I was 15 years old when my mother told me this. I also just want to say, my aunt was very brave in terms of going to - 'cause she went to a teacher. And she also testified and was very brave about standing up to this man. So it was both my mother and my aunt.
GROSS: How old was your mother when she called the police?
SCHRECK: My mother was 14 years old. Yes.
GROSS: So when your mother told the police and her stepfather found out, what was his reaction?
SCHRECK: His reaction was to essentially threaten all the kids with a gun, to kidnap them and drive off, shouting that he was going to kill all of them.
GROSS: So he actually put them in a car, took his gun...
GROSS: ...And drove off.
GROSS: And then your grandmother called the police, and they came.
GROSS: And he was prosecuted. He did 10 years?
SCHRECK: He was prosecuted. He - actually - OK, so this has been very interesting for me because I was told a version of the story, and then there's the version of the story I remembered. When I did an interview for The New Yorker magazine, they were able to fact-check everything, and I actually found out that he was sentenced to three consecutive 30-year sentences for what was termed, at that time, carnal knowledge, but that he only served two years.
GROSS: So how does this physical and sexual abuse in your family connect to your understanding of the Constitution?
SCHRECK: So I grew up believing in the idea of one bad man. There was a bad man in our family who hurt my grandma, hurt my aunts and uncles, deeply hurt my mom. She - you know, her whole life - my mom is an incredible person, and she's a beloved teacher in Wenatchee, where I'm from, and a drama coach. And she's had an incredibly successful life. But this trauma - she's struggled with it her entire life, and I witnessed that as a young girl.
So I grew up believing that there was one bad man who hurt my family, who hurt the women in my family. And it wasn't until later - really, until I started researching this - that I began to understand this problem as part of a larger cultural problem, a legal problem, a systemic problem. And in working on this, I ended up researching the 14th Amendment quite deeply.
And I learned that there are no constitutional protections for women against sexual violence and that, in fact, the Violence Against Women Act was essentially gutted by the Supreme Court in 2005, when a woman named Jessica Gonzales brought her case in front of the Supreme Court. She was suing the Castle Rock Police Department of the state of Colorado for failing to show up to protect her from her violent husband. She had a restraining order against her violent husband. She called the police many, many times. No one came to help her. They refused to come help her. They said, well, he's your husband. And her husband ended up killing her children - her three daughters.
And when she took her case to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court essentially said, you can't sue the police department; they have no constitutional obligation to provide you with active protection. Some legal scholars have said this shuts down the 14th Amendment for women. It shuts down the possibility for women to look to the federal government for protection from gender-based violence. So when I realized that this trauma in my family wasn't just one bad man, one evil man, but a legal and systemic problem in this country, it was eye-opening for me.
GROSS: You were already working on your play "What The Constitution Means To Me" during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. What was your experience of watching Christine Blasey Ford testify to - you know, to the Senate Judiciary Committee?
SCHRECK: I remember sitting on the couch watching that, being - I think like many of us were, I felt like an emotional wreck. I found her testimony incredibly powerful. I believed her. I also found it triggering, and I think a lot of people did. It reminded me of things that happened to me when I was younger, and I cried a lot while watching it. And then I had to go do a show. And when I got to the theater, I was exhausted. And I thought, well, that was a - that was actually a big mistake because now I'm exhausted, and I have to do this show.
But I found when I walked onstage - well, first of all, I had so much rage that sort of gave me the adrenaline I needed to do the show. And then it was also quite powerful to be in a room filled with people who were processing the same thing I was processing. There was a tremendous amount of energy in the room that night, a tremendous amount of audible reaction, both to the humor and - tremendous amount of audible grief, particularly from women. And I thought, thank God I get to do this show instead of sitting home on my couch, scrolling through Twitter in despair.
And that has been one of the great gifts of the show, actually, is to be in a room with people having a communal experience, thinking about our country together, having this conversation together instead of being siloed, instead of being alone at home on social media. It's one of the great gifts of the show for me.
GROSS: Well, Heidi Schreck, good luck with the show.
SCHRECK: Thank you very much.
GROSS: And thank you so much for talking with us.
SCHRECK: Thank you for having me, Terry.
DAVIES: Heidi Schreck speaking with Terry Gross last year. A filmed version of her Broadway play "What The Constitution Means To Me" begins streaming on Amazon Prime today. Coming up, we remember one of the greatest second basemen in baseball, Joe Morgan. This is FRESH AIR.
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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies. Today, we remember one of baseball's great second basemen, Joe Morgan. He died Sunday at the age of 77. There are fewer second basemen in baseball's Hall of Fame than players for any other position. Morgan was inducted in 1990 after playing 22 years in the majors, mostly with the Houston Astros and the Cincinnati Reds. As a second baseman, he was known for his defense, but he was also a skilled base stealer and a powerful hitter, especially for a man who was small in stature. He was 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds. Morgan was with the Reds teams of the '70s that included Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez, known as the Big Red Machine. Morgan was voted the National League's most valuable player in both 1975 and '76, leading the Reds to World Series championships both years. After he retired from baseball, Morgan became a television commentator for ESPN for 21 seasons. Terry Gross spoke to Morgan in 1993 after he'd published his autobiography, "Joe Morgan: A Life In Baseball." She asked him why there are so few second basemen in the Hall of Fame.
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JOE MORGAN: A second baseman's main job is to play defense and make the double play. Neither are very glamorous things in baseball because they look for people to hit home runs, drive-in runs, do a lot of great things. And normally, that doesn't come from your second baseman because they're usually small in frame and small in stature - quick feet. Quickness is their main asset, not power. And I added something to that. I hit more home runs, I guess, than any second baseman that's ever played that position. So that made me a candidate for the Hall of Fame. But the real reason is because their main jobs are defense, and they're not known for their offensive numbers.
TERRY GROSS: What did you like and not like about playing that position?
MORGAN: You know what, I can't think of anything I didn't like. I was very proud to have been a second baseman in that I think it takes a special type of person to play second base. The rules have changed a little bit now, but when I first came into the league and when I played, there were no rules governing how a guy could come in and knock you over. And I always felt it was a - really kind of a test of your character and manhood to be able to stand there with your back to the runner, knowing that he's going to try to break you in half. And your first thoughts had to be make the double play first and then worry about my body. And very few people can do that and do it well. And that's why I was always proud to be a second baseman. And really, there were no negatives as far as I'm concerned, for me, as a second baseman. I just love the position.
GROSS: What were your worst moments of impact?
MORGAN: I had a few. One - 1969. I was stretched out to receive a throw and Tommie Agee from the Mets hit me with a cross-body block, which is a football block - as I said, there were no rules then - and tore up my knee like a football - I had a football injury. I had O'Donoghue's triad, which is the worst you can have - worst knee injury you can have. It's collateral ligament cartilage. And they - just a lot of damage to your knee. And they never figured I would be able to play second base again.
GROSS: You were considered one of the most complete players in the game because you had a great hitting record, stolen bases, great at second base - I mean, a real all-around player. You got most valuable player twice. Is that something that you consciously tried to develop, to be an all-around player?
MORGAN: Yes, it was. I did not go out to be the best, but I wanted to be the most complete player in the game. And I think I reached that goal in, you know, '75, '76, in that era. Growing up in California, my father would take me to the minor league games, the Oakland Oaks. We would see the players, and my father would say, well, he's a good player. He can hit, but he doesn't field very well. He can field, but he doesn't hit. And my father always impressed on me to try to be a complete player. So I think I worked harder on my defense than I did any other part of the game. Everyone loves to hit, and usually that's where they channel their energies. With me, I channeled my energies toward my weaknesses. If I was a good hitter, which I was all during my minor league career, but I was not as good defensively, so I worked very hard on my defense. Then I worked very hard on my stolen bases. I did everything to make myself a complete player.
I set - one year when I - my knee was torn up, I'd sit behind home plate every single game and charted things about how a pitcher delivers the ball to the plate, how a catcher sets up for a pitch out, how everything happens defensively to stop you from stealing a base. So that made me a much better base stealer because I knew everything that they could do by the time I got back on the field. And so that helped me to be a complete player. I used to work out every day from 3 o'clock until 5 making double plays and then go play a game. I sacrificed some of my statistics that year because I was tired by the time the game started. But I had a goal in mind, and I reached that goal at the end of that season when I thought I was a complete player, and I was a good defensive player by that time. So I had to work hardest on my defense, and I was probably most proud of my defensive accomplishments.
GROSS: Let's talk about your height. You're one of the comparatively shorter players...
GROSS: ...From baseball - 5'7" I think?
GROSS: When you first got to the majors and, you know, you were a rookie - and pitchers are always trying to take advantage of rookies - was it worse for you because you were short?
MORGAN: I think it was a little bit because they knew I wasn't going to (laughter) charge the mound. You know, I was a small guy and they weren't afraid of me. And they felt, you know, probably they take liberties with you. But as a rookie, when I came along, they tested every rookie - didn't matter - because they had Leo Durocher, Gene Mauch. These type of individuals were managers, and they always wanted to test rookies. And I remember my first game against Philadelphia. Chris Short was pitching. And opening day - it was my first game in the big leagues - and I went three for four, you know. First opening day game, I went three for four. We played them, like, three days later. Next day, I came up to bat, first inning. They started knocking me down, you know, throwing the ball behind (laughter) my neck and all that. And as a rookie, you better not say anything - well, you're better off not saying anything. Some people make waves, but I don't think it helps them. Me, I just took it as part of the game and as something I had to prove to my - not only my teammates, but to the league, that Joe Morgan was here to stay. And he was going to do whatever he had to do to get to the end of his goals.
GROSS: Now, you grew up near the old Oakland Park.
GROSS: Did you go there - were you in walking distance? Could you just walk over there?
MORGAN: Walked over. It was a - I've had - you know, I had a great childhood. My parents always made sure that I was able to enjoy the fruits of being a child, you know? I didn't have to mature too quickly. I was not expected to know everything at the age of 10 or 12. I could be a kid and enjoy, you know, just enjoy life. We - I lived about, I'd say, maybe eight to 10 blocks. You know, everything looks bigger when you're a little kid (laughter), you know, so it may have been a little less. But we walked to the stadium, to Oaks Ballpark, Oakland Oaks, where the team - the home team in the Pacific Coast League.
And my father and my oldest sister, Linda (ph), we - I'm the oldest, but she was next to me. We would walk up. We'd eat dinner every night at home, walk up to the stadium, watch the game, come back home. I mean, it was like, you know - as a kid, like I said, that's the greatest thing could happen to you - to be able to go to the ballpark with your father every day that the team is in town and to enjoy it and learn about the game and be able to watch future major leaguers and great players that you want to emulate as you grow older. And so I was able to go to the game every day. And it was really a great experience that I will always treasure.
GROSS: So your father must've been a big baseball fan, too.
MORGAN: Oh, yes, my father was a big sports fan. We would go, also, to the San Francisco 49er games. My father would take me each Sunday.
GROSS: Couldn't walk there.
MORGAN: No, couldn't walk there.
MORGAN: But we - my father was a baseball player. He played, you know? But it was before the color line was broken. And my father - and I had, like, three or four uncles. Two of them they think were good enough to make it to the major leagues. But, again, in those days - and they grew up in a small town in Bonham, Texas, which is, you know, not where you're going to find all your major league scouts watching anyway. But even in those days, you know, minorities were not - Blacks were not able to play in major leagues.
GROSS: So did he play in the Black leagues?
MORGAN: Yes, he did. He wanted - but not the the major league Black leagues. He played in - what they did was - we were in Bonham, Texas. There's 20 little cities around there. And they had leagues, you know, Negro Leagues. And they'd play at their, you know - they'd have schedules, and they would play. And I was kind of the bat boy at the beginning for my father's team.
DAVIES: Terry Gross speaking with baseball's Joe Morgan in 1993. He died Sunday at the age of 77. We'll hear more of their interview after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF GABRIEL MERVINE, ERIC GUNNISON, KEN WALKER, PAUL ROMAINE, PETER SOMMER AND STEVE KOVALCHECK'S "PEOPLE")
DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's 1993 interview with Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan. He played 22 seasons, mostly with the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds. Morgan died Sunday at the age of 77.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
GROSS: When you were scouted and you got into the minors, you were in the Carolina League first. You were playing in the segregated South.
GROSS: And you write about how you were so absorbed in baseball, it took you a while to actually...
GROSS: ...Realize what segregation meant, what it meant in your life then. So what were some of the things you were up against that bothered you most during those days in the minors?
MORGAN: Well, when I first started playing professional baseball - where I grew up in California, you know, as the old cliche goes, some of my best friends were white, some of my best friends were blue, green, whatever. I mean, I just had friends. And I didn't think in those terms. And they didn't think that way either. So I went to Durham. And then we went on our first road trip I guess about a week after I'd been there, maybe 10 days. And so we were going to Winston-Salem.
And I drive - we were on the bus. We drive to Winston-Salem. We go to downtown hotel. And everyone starts to get off. So I start to get off. And the bus driver, who was Black, says, hey, wait a minute. You don't get off here. I said, what do you mean? I'm, you know, with my team. He said, no, we stay in a different section of town. And, man, now that's like, you know, what do you mean? This is - I'm part of this team. No, you're over there.
So I sit back down. We go over to the Black community. And we stayed there. Wasn't as - the accommodations weren't as nice. I didn't have any air conditioning. But the food was great. So I had a great time as far as that. And that night, you know, he - we're separate rooms. He said, let's go. It's time to go to the stadium. So we get in the bus. Now we go back to pick up all my teammates at the hotel downtown. We picked them up. And we go to the stadium. And we all get dressed. And I walked out. And all of a sudden, everything kind of became very clear. And it was like a slap in the face. It really woke me up.
I see a sign that says colored drinking fountain. Then I see one that says white drinking fountain. I go a few steps further, says white restrooms. And then it says Black - I mean, it said colored in those days. And now that - I thought that was bad, right? So then I walk around the fence to go into our side of the playing field. And when I walked around to enter this field, the fans - there were a lot of fans in the right field stands. And they started yelling, you know, clapping. And I looked over and there were a lot of Black people there. And they were clapping because they didn't see - there weren't any Black people on the Durham team in the past, you know? And here I was there.
So they started clapping. And I looked over. And I was very - I got very upset because there was a screen there. And it looked like they were in a cage, you know? It was - and, you know, again, this is my perception of what I saw. You know, maybe it didn't feel that way to them. Maybe it didn't look that way to other people. But it looked that way to me. It looked like they were in a cage. And that disturbed me quite a bit.
And I felt like that I was being - I was helping to - helping this image to continue by playing in front of - you know, playing this game, I was as guilty as everyone else. I was part of this, you know, thing that was, really, to me, just downgrading to Black people. And I said that I was going to leave. I said, I can't, you know, play and be a part of this. So I left. And I went and actually called and made reservations to go home. And then I played the game. I called - my reservations were to leave the next morning to go back to California.
GROSS: So you were going to leave the whole league?
MORGAN: I was going to leave. I said, you know, I'm - I have more respect for my people than this, than to be a part of this and to be a part of continuing to, you know, degrade the situation, just being a part - playing there, to me, was part of - I was a part of it. So I was going to leave. And after the game, I went back, packed my bags. And I was leaving the next morning. And the bus driver, of course, tried to talk me out of it. And I said, no, it's just something I have to do.
And I guess, you know, as I say in the book, it was no - nothing like thinking about what Jackie Robinson had to go through or other minorities had to go through to help make the country great. The only thing that kept me there was having to face my father and tell him that I quit. And so I decided to stay. But I don't think I ever got over, and I don't think I ever will get over, the feeling I had the first day I walked around there and I saw all those people. It was very devastating for me.
GROSS: So what was it like in 1990 when you were inducted into the Hall of Fame?
MORGAN: You know, it's something that I've tried to describe in the book. But I don't think that I could ever do justice to it because I'm not a poet. I'm not someone who can, you know, have great things to say with their words and their feelings. I really - it was like this most special moment you can have, you know, as far as I'm concerned.
As a baseball player, I'd won, you know, the most valuable player award. I won world championships. And I thought nothing could top that. I thought, hey, this is like - I mean, the way I felt after our first world championship was like - I had this feeling that I was, like, in space or someplace. I'm, like, just floating around. There's nothing. There's no other pressures. There's no other problems in the world. And I felt perfect, you know, for that first 20 minutes after we won the World Championship.
And when I went to the Hall of Fame for the induction, it started slowly because I went - I'd never been to the Hall of Fame before. I'd never been up there to Cooperstown. I went a day early. I got a private tour of the Hall of Fame. And I guess it started to build up then. When you walk into a place and it's like a mausoleum - it's so quiet - it's, like, unbelievable. And you walk in. And there are plaques with images of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, you know, Ty Cobb - all the greatest players who've ever lived. And then they show you the spot where yours is going. You know, they're going to have a picture of Joe Morgan there.
And, you know, you just start to - it just starts to build up to know that 100 years from now, you know, whoever walks into the Hall of Fame will know that Joe Morgan was here. They may not know who I was or care. But they will know that I was somebody special because I played baseball. And I have two daughters that are 2 years old. And one of these days, they'll bring their kids there and be able to see that. So that was probably the most emotional day - as I am now - for me, you know, in my life. It really was.
And to stand there, I guess, with all the greatest players in the world behind you who've ever lived - like Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Stan Musial - and to have to talk about Joe Morgan was very difficult, because in my own mind, you know, I will never, I guess, be able to compare myself to Willie Mays or Stan Musial or Mickey Mantle because, to me, that's when I was a kid. Growing up, these people were, like, not real. They were superhuman people. And that's still a problem for me. It really is. And I think of myself as being - you know, I say that they left big, big footprints and I only left a small one. But however small, when you go to the Hall of Fame, I'm sitting right next to them.
GROSS: Joe Morgan, it's been a pleasure to have you here.
MORGAN: Oh (laughter).
GROSS: I thank you a lot for talking with us.
MORGAN: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
DAVIES: Joe Morgan died Sunday at the age of 77. He spoke with Terry Gross in 1993. On Monday's show historian H.W. Brands considers the question of whether radical, direct action or gradual reforms are the best means of achieving social change. He has a new book about two 19th century leaders' approaches to ending slavery, fiery abolitionist John Brown and President Abraham Lincoln. His book is "The Zealot And The Emancipator." I hope you can join us.
(SOUNDBITE OF ERROLL GARNER'S "OUT OF NOWHERE")
DAVIES: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham, with additional engineering support by Joyce Lieberman and Julian Herzfeld. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Ann Marie Baldonado, Therese Madden, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley and Kayla Lattimore. Our associate producer of digital media is Molly Seavey-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
(SOUNDBITE OF ERROLL GARNER'S "OUT OF NOWHERE")
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