ONE ON ONE: In Memory of a Great Athlete, Friend and Cape Cod’s Greatest Sports Fan

A baseball cracked off the barrel of a bat somewhere nearby. Two or three ballplayers found sanctuary in the shade of the dugout, occasionally glancing at their cell phones or pulling on their socks and lacing up their spikes. The heavy hiss of a water hose sprayed across the infield dust and the late-day, July sun beamed waves of heat upon the freshly cut grass.

Former Dennis-Yarmouth and Y-D Red Sox catcher Greg Morris, seen here with his son Dylan and wife Sheila, passed away unexpectedly Wednesday. Photo courtesy of the Morris Family

Former Dennis-Yarmouth and Y-D Red Sox catcher Greg Morris, seen here with his son Dylan and wife Sheila, passed away unexpectedly Wednesday.
Photo courtesy of the Morris Family

A lone, middle-aged man sat atop the bleachers in silence. Sunglasses. Hands clasped together, back straight, he soaked in every beautiful detail of the pristine ballpark. This place was his sanctuary.

The scene could have been set in any Cape Cod ballpark, on any given day, to be frank. In fact, it could have been all of them or any high school basketball court in winter or any football field on any Friday night in the fall.

He lived for it.

But Wednesday night, after years of battling with diabetes in combination with old sports injuries housed inside his slim but well-worn frame, his heart finally, albeit unexpectedly and all-too-soon, gave out. It was a heart that fully belonged to his wife Sheila (McKeon) Morris and their three gifted children, Devan, Brittan and Dylan and it was a heart that fully belonged with every home run he witnessed, every touchdown pass he saw and every three-point play buried from beyond the arc that he cheered for, for the past four decades across Cape Cod.

It belonged everywhere there was the sound of a leather ball hissing through the stifling afternoon air of August and it belonged everywhere because every single day there was a game to be played or a match to be held or a balance beam to be tumbled on, Gregory A. Morris – a man’s man, through and through – was there to watch.

1971 Dennis-Yarmouth Regonal High School baseball Captain Greg Morris... he will not be forgotten. Photo courtesy of DYRHS Archives

1971 Dennis-Yarmouth Regonal High School baseball Captain Greg Morris… he will not be forgotten.
Photo courtesy of DYRHS Archives

He attended every single Barnstable Post 206 American Legion baseball home game for the past four summers and any number of away games as well. He was there every Friday night at W. Leo Shields Memorial Field in Hyannis or in the ancient gymnasium at Barnstable High or the equally old confines of his alma mater, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School.

A former D-Y Dolphin baseball captain who served behind the plate for Cape League Hall of Famer Merrill “Red” Wilson from 1968-1971, Morris was a baseball junkie, a football addict, a basketball fan (and former player) and when his daughter Brittan was busy helping the Red Raiders win three straight gymnastics state titles, he was there for every vault and flip.

A proud former catcher for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox who played his collegiate baseball at Southeastern Massachusetts University before it became UMass-Dartmouth, Greg Morris was an ambassador of good will at local playing fields and a sponge for the statistics and details of each event. There were few details he was unaware of and few he did not comprehend and few athletes he had not met.

Up until very recently, I could count on my phone ringing at least once a week to be asked “who’s pitching tonight” or “are you heading up to the game” or “how about lunch tomorrow?”

I could also count on him being at ball games long before half the players had even arrived. There was no detail about any game he wanted to miss and none he could live without knowing. I must be frank in saying I’d never heard him say a bad word about any person, even if it were true. He simply would not let his tongue dance over anyone’s reputation regardless of whether it was deserved and he always wanted to know how every player and athlete was doing.

I do not think it’s a stretch to say that some of his proudest and happiest moments were watching American Legion or Cape League baseball in the summer months and in particular when his son Dylan suited up this past summer for the Falmouth Commodores. It’s a rare bond and moment in being a former Cape Leaguer who is able to watch his own son suit up at that same level.

Greg Morris, a good friend to all he met, may he rest in peace. Photo courtesy of DYRHS Archives

Greg Morris, Circa 1970, a good friend to all he met, may he rest in peace.
Photo courtesy of DYRHS Archives

He was deeply loved by all the players and his children’s teammates if not for his sheer loyalty in watching them play and cheering for them, then simply for his constant good-nature and quick-witted humor. He was humble but thrived on the atmosphere that surrounded intense competition and he spent literally hours of each week that I knew him saying nice things about people.

I can still see him sitting atop those bleachers as the sun burned deep into my arms and neck and the sweat poured off me in unison with the water gushing from the field hose. I can still hear him asking me “what the lineup” looked like for that night. I can still feel his warm handshake as if he were standing in front of me once more because it was genuinely offered and always heart-felt.

The sole irony of his life and the cause of its unwanted demise may simply have been just that; that no heart of any person could possibly have been more sincerely immersed in the desire to see young athletes do well and to give everything they possibly could give and to become the best possible versions of themselves.

I doubt I will ever forget him. He will be dearly missed.

— Sports Editor Sean Walsh’s column “One on One” appears here weekly. His email is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @coachwalshccbm

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  1. Bettie Garrison says

    A beautiful tribute Sean. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. God be with his loved ones – family and friends.

  2. One of your best!

  3. Bobak Sardashti says

    I haven’t seen him for about 30 years but this a perfect example of the good die young unfortunately. My best wishes to his immediate family and friends, hope god helps them get through this tragedy.

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