Feb. 18, 2005 – José Morales was born in 1944 in Frederiksted, St. Croix. His mother came from the island of Vieques, as did the man whose name Morales carries, but his natural father was a Crucian named Stanley Latimer. Morales learned the art of baseball playing in the field of a cattle farm on his grandfather's property in estate Wheel of Fortune. Later, Morales joined the local little league team.
According to a web site that chronicles the careers of Virgin Islanders who have achieved fame in national baseball leagues, Morales became captivated by the game at an early age.
"I used to go to the ballpark and throw a ball into a garbage can at second base, play by myself, run — you do that today, you're crazy," Morales said.
He also described how he and his friends created a physical training regime despite not having enough money to buy weights. "We would fill biscuit pans with concrete, and put them on each end of a bar. It weighed maybe 50 pounds and then we would pump those homemade weights. Then we would run two or three miles on the beach. Then we would hit."
Ivan Latimer, one of Morales' brothers, coached a team on St. Croix. While playing on the team Morales developed a strong throwing arm. Morales got the moniker "Shady" when, as a teenager, a wild throw of his landed in the outfield under a shady tree. Morales said the other team members teased him about it, and he got upset, which is usually the best way to get a nickname to stick. But it was during one of those local games that opportunity knocked and Morales was recruited by a baseball scout.
It took Morales 10 years playing for minor-league teams in the Caribbean, Mexico and the U.S. before he went on to the majors. During his time in the minors he gained a reputation as an outstanding pinch hitter.
When he moved on to the majors, Morales played for Oakland, the Expos, the Twins, the Orioles, and the Dodgers. While playing for Montreal in 1976, Morales set a single-season record of 12 pinch hits that stood for 19 years, until John Vander Wal broke it in 1995. With 123 pinch hits during his years in the majors, Morales is ranked seventh on the all-time list, according to the Web site worldzone.net.
The name José "Shady" Morales is about to be revived among the youth of the Virgin Islands with the opening of 13-to-15 year-old baseball league. The league, which is scheduled to open Saturday, Feb. 26, will be dedicated and named for Morales. Richard Nicks, one of the organizers of the league, said Morales is a "forgotten hero" of Virgin Island baseball greats. Nicks said Morales, who lives in Vieques, "still has a direct pipeline to major league scouts" and he hopes this league will be the beginning of another VI youth's professional baseball career.
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