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James Lewis Morton
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 195 lb.
- Born September 4, 1920 in Fort Scott, KS USA
- Died May 30, 1996 in Oklahoma City, OK USA
Outfielder Lew Morton played in the minor leagues from 1946 to 1959, including eight seasons at Triple-A, yet he never made the major leagues. During his career, he led his leagues in runs and walks once each and often finished in the top 10 in home runs, doubles, slugging, OBP and walks.
The power-hitter began his professional career in 1946, splitting the season between the Decatur Commodores and Houston Buffaloes, hitting a combined .263 with 12 home runs, 20 doubles and eight triples in 123 games (.278/.384/.472 in 100 contests for Decatur, .191/.329/.294 in 23 games for the higher-level Buffs).
In 1947, with the Henderson Oilers of the high-offense Lone Star League, he hit .363 with 22 home runs, 46 doubles and 202 hits in 137 games. He tied Bob Marquis for the league lead in runs (145), finished second in total bases (328), third in hits, home runs, batting average and slugging percentage (.590). He tied for third (with John Stone and Joe Kracher) in doubles.
Morton played for the Longview Texans, also a Lone Star League squad, in 1948, hitting .286 with 17 home runs in 107 games. He moved with the Texans from the Lone Star League to the East Texas League in 1949 and hit .362 with 19 home runs and 30 doubles in 122 games. His batting average was third in the league, behind former major leaguer George Washington and Stone.
In 1950, he moved to the Texas League, playing for the Dallas Eagles and hitting .278/.405/.410 with 112 walks, 83 runs, 90 RBI and 13 home runs in 152 games. He led the TL in walks and was 5th in RBI. He also led the TL's left fielders with 21 assists. He then began a long stretch in the Triple-A International League, plying his trade for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1951 to 1958.
He struggled to get acclimated to his new league and the tougher competition in 1951, hitting only .236/.336/.400 with 21 home runs and 70 RBI in 147 games (he did finish tied for third in the 1951 International League with Wally Post in home runs, however, behind Marv Rickert and Archie Wilson). In 1952, he increased his batting line to .284/.377/.436, while slugging 17 home runs, scoring 84 runs and stealing 11 bases in 148 games. He made the 1952 International League's top 10 in dingers. He hit .307/.379/.463 with 16 home runs and 83 RBI in 152 games in 1953 (finishing third in games, at-bats , hits [175, behind Wilson and Sandy Amoros] and doubles [35, behind Amoros and Buddy Hicks]). He also tied Stan Jok for third with 17 outfield assists. In 1954, he hit .289/.388/.439 with 11 home runs and 75 RBI in 114 games. All five of the other '54 Maple Leafs outfielders would appear in the majors (Sam Jethroe, Wilson, Elston Howard, Mike Goliat and Chuck Kress).
In 1955, Morton hit .286/.393/.408 with 12 home runs and 70 RBI in 144 games (finishing 6th in the 1955 International League with 85 walks and 4th in OBP behind Rocky Nelson, Spook Jacobs and Russ Sullivan) while the following season he hit .268/.400/.451 with 16 home runs, 58 RBI and another 85 walks in 122 games. He was 5th in the 1956 IL in OBP, between Tom Burgess and Goliat and finished 8th in walks (between Burgess and Sullivan). He hit 25 home runs in 1957, his first 20 home run season in over half a decade, while batting .270/.385/.501 with 60 RBI in 129 games. He was 5th in the 1957 International League in circuit clouts behind Luke Easter, John Powers, Goliat and Nelson. Had he qualified (he was 7 plate appearances shy), he would have been 6th in slugging (trailing Easter, Powers, Goliat, Burgess and Nelson) and 7th in OBP (after Sullivan, Easter, Nelson, Bobby Del Greco, Cal Abrams and Burgess). He tied Rod Graber for 9th in the circuit in runs and tied Mickey Micelotta and Burgess for 10th in walks (67).
In 1958, the 37-year-old struggled by hitting only .229/.344/.369 with 12 home runs and 32 RBI in 111 games. That was his final year in the International League. He stuck around for one more professional season, playing for the Memphis Chickasaws in the Southern Association in 1959. In one last hurrah, he hit .286/.399/.491 with 21 home runs and 71 RBI in 134 games. He was 4th in OBP (behind Don Saner, Gordy Coleman and Tookie Gilbert), 6th in slugging (between Ultus Alvarez and Gail Henley), tied Ken Hunt for 7th in homers and tied with Kenny Kuhn for 9th with 80 walks.
In 14 seasons, Morton hit .289 with 234 home runs, 1,849 hits, 310 doubles and 49 triples in 1,842 games. He slugged .462. He had a good eye at the plate, never striking out more than walking in a season per the records available. In 1954, he posted a walk to strikeout ratio of over 3 to 1.
Sources include 1947, 1951, 1953-1956, 1958 and 1960 Baseball Guides