Joe Morris

Many people look at Joe Morris as Mr. Softball in Norfolk and Northeast Nebraska.

And for his efforts in promoting the game of softball as a player, coach, umpire and tournament organizer for the past 38 years, the 64-year-old was nominated for a lifetime achievement award in the Nebraska Softball Hall of Fame.

"He has been really involved in the Norfolk softball community for decades," said Joe Patterson, state commissioner of the Nebraska Softball Association.

Morris is the second player outside of the Omaha and Lincoln area to be inducted into the Nebraska Softball Hall of Fame and only the 117th player overall out of 184 inductees that includes umpires.

Hastings is home of the Nebraska Softball Hall of Fame, where owners, players, coaches, umpires and more are recognized for the accomplishments they have achieved in the sport of softball in Nebraska.

Last month, the Nebraska Softball Foundation welcomed five new members into the Nebraska Softball Hall of Fame, including Morris.

The love of baseball and softball began when he was 7 years old, which turned into 13 years of baseball and then he played 1525 games of softball.

"I wouldn't learn until years later that my grandpa played semi-pro ball in St. Joseph, Missouri, and, according to some of my dad's former teammates at his funeral, they said he was the smoothest centerfielder they'd ever seen," Morris said. "Not knowing this at the time when I picked up that little ball, something inexplicable just poured into me that somewhat reminded me of the painting of the finger of God about to touch the finger of Adam to put life into him, for I felt this overwhelming desire to go home and put this ball to use, and it just took off from there."

After he played baseball for 13 years, Morris was drafted into the Army, but then two years later he returned to the game of softball.

Morris went to community college when he got back into the United States, which is when it was suggested to him to get into softball.

He started up a team with the intention of playing for just a year, but that one year ended up being 38 seasons, the last of which he finished playing his final 18 games with a broken collarbone.

"I've played with worse. But in the early days, I didn't mind waking up the next day with the bed sheets stuck to the sliding burns on my hip if I had a good game, but eventually, I just had my grandma sew one of her hot stove pads inside my game pants on the left hip side, and that took care of that," Morris said. "In the middle years, I had a 714-game playing streak going where I hadn't missed a game in 10 years, so I pushed on through with a cracked rib and a concussion and a broken tooth with temps soaring over 100 degrees for over a month."

He played most of the time at second base, with the occasional situations when he would move to shortstop.

Over his career, Morris had 2,666 assists while being a part of 530 double plays, and he also had five triple plays.

After finishing his career with the team he started, the Flyers, they finished with an 872-347 record while Morris's overall career record including playing for other teams, was 1,044-481.

"Still, it was getting harder to play at the high full-tilt level I had always played at, even though I was still diving and sliding," Morris said. "Maybe it was because I always felt that you don't have to come from a major league city to play like a major leaguer, and that anything worth doing is worth doing well, or else, I must've just learned to push on in the Army with sprained ankles and stuff."

At the end of his career, he knew it was the right time to hang up the cleats and focus on his family.

"I've loved this whole journey, especially the thrill of playing nine games in one day while coming through a 63-team losers bracket to finish 11-1 to win districts at 2:50 on a Monday morning amid a fog that'd settled in,” Morris said.

That was just one of the dozens of special memories during all those years, especially considered “I was blessed to have played with some pretty good ballplayers," Morris said.

For the love of the game and the all of years of hard work he put into softball, Morris was nominated into the Nebraska Softball Hall of Fame.

"We've had some good ballplayers come out of Norfolk, but I think it was my longevity," Morris said. "I wanted to do it right, and it was a great night."

The other members inducted into the hall of fame in 2019 included Dan Simmons, Brian Bruggeman, Ron Fittje and Dan Wendelin.

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