|Born: January 19, 1964|
|September 18, 1999, for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 9, 2000, for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays|
|Earned run average||4.80|
James Samuel Morris Jr. (born January 19, 1964) is an American former professional baseball pitcher who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for two seasons with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Although brief, Morris' career is noted for making his MLB debut at the advanced age of 35 and after undergoing several arm surgeries. His story would be dramatized into the 2002 film The Rookie.
Morris was born in Brownwood, Texas, but spent most of his childhood moving to different cities, as his father was in the Navy. Throughout his childhood, Morris lived in New Haven, Connecticut, Great Lakes, Illinois, and Jacksonville, Florida. He began playing baseball at the age of three. His father, Jim Sr., became a recruiter for the United States Navy. His father and mother, Olline, settled in Brownwood, Texas. He attended Brownwood High School, but as Brownwood did not yet have a baseball program, he played football for the Lions from 1979-82 and won the state championship as a wingback, punter and kicker with Gordon Wood as a head coach.
Morris was originally selected 466th overall in the January 1982 amateur baseball draft by the New York Yankees but did not sign. He would then later be selected out of Ranger College fourth overall in the 1983 amateur draft (January Secondary) by the Milwaukee Brewers and signed with the organization. He suffered several arm injuries in the minor leagues, missing all of the 1986 season. After four pitching appearances in 1987, he was released, never having progressed past the single-A minor leagues.
After sitting out all of 1988, Morris signed with the Chicago White Sox organization for 1989. Arm injuries and ineffectiveness limited him to pitching in just two games, and he was again unable to rise past the single-A leagues before being released.
Unable to make anything of his career, Morris retired and moved to Big Lake, Texas, with his wife Lorri, his 9-year-old son and his five- and one-year-old daughters, where he became a physical science teacher and baseball coach at Reagan County High School. At this point, Morris had retired with a minor league record of 17 wins, 22 losses, and a 5.13 ERA in 270 innings pitched.
Morris remained a teacher for Reagan County High School for the next decade. While coaching baseball for the Reagan County Owls in the spring of 1999, Morris made a promise to his team that he would try out for Major League Baseball if his team won the District Championship, something the team had never accomplished before. His team won the title, and Morris kept his end of the bargain by attending a Tampa Bay Devil Rays tryout. The scout was not interested in Morris, but gave him a tryout solely to let Morris keep his promise to his players. Surprisingly, Morris discovered that in spite of his age, and having several surgeries on his arm, he was able to throw 12 consecutive 98-mph fastballs. After much debate with his family, Morris signed a professional contract with the Devil Rays organization at the age of 35. He started out with the AA Orlando Rays, and moved up quickly to a spot with the AAA Durham Bulls. Thanks to solid pitching performances with Durham, Tampa Bay gave him a chance to pitch with the Rays when rosters expanded in September. On September 18, 1999, against Royce Clayton of the Texas Rangers, the 35-year-old Morris made his debut, striking Clayton out on four pitches. He made four more appearances later that year.
Morris made 16 major league appearances in 2000, during which his arm problems recurred. His final appearance came on May 9, 2000, at Yankee Stadium. He entered a tie game in the bottom of the 10th inning with the bases loaded, and issued a game-ending RBI walk to his first batter, Paul O'Neill, after which the Rays released him. He was not the losing pitcher in the game as the runner who scored on the walk was actually put on base by the previous pitcher Rick White, who was tagged with the loss. Morris never recorded any wins or losses in any of his major league appearances.
Morris was signed in December 2000 to a minor-league contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was released during spring training. At the end of his major league career he was 0-0 with an ERA of 4.80 and 13 strikeouts.
Morris has released an autobiography, The Oldest Rookie. He often appears as a motivational speaker. Morris released his second book, Dream Makers, in 2020. It deals with his life in the twenty years since his retirement from Major League Baseball.
A feature film made by Disney called The Rookie was released in 2002 about Morris's climb to playing in MLB. He is portrayed in the film by Dennis Quaid. Morris cameos in the movie as Orlando Umpire #2.
Morris has 4 children and has been married 2 times. Morris is also an accomplished motivational speaker, as he has traveled the world telling people about how he was able to fulfill his dream and that they will be able to fulfill their own.