JIM MORROW: LARGER THAN LIFE SPORTS FIGURE
There has been an extensive amount written about the impressive success of The Cobourg Angels organization. Teaching, practicing, organizing, high expectations and the capacity to attract talent are all factors that have been highlighted in the substantial historical record preserved by the Cobourg and District Sports Hall of Fame.
During my years with the Senior Angels, I was fortunate to witness all of those factors at play. Yet, my experience tells me that one element has received less attention because it is very difficult to measure. Of the many outstanding athletes, builders and coaches from the past and present in the area, I only recall a few individuals that outwardly projected an animated love of the game and the sheer joy of being immersed in the competitive moment.
If you followed Major League Baseball in the 1960’s, you would recall how Willie Mays and Ernie Banks projected a radiant joy and enthusiasm for the game. In the current era, Blue Jays George Springer and Vladi Guerrero project a similar energy. Local outstanding athletes that had similar qualities would be Margie Matthews, Jim Bradford, Ewart Timlin and Ross Quigley.
Most of the Angels players of the Paul Currelly era, fondly remember Jim Morrow’s influence. Jim consistently provided encouragement, good humour and friendship to players, coaches and supporters alike. I believe that Jim had a huge impact upon the year-to-year loyalty and commitment of the players. The team environment was happy and easygoing until the first pitch. Their cohesiveness allowed the team to maximize their talent and sustain a rare level of excellence throughout the years that Mr. Morrow was associated with the Paul Currelly Angels.
It is also my impression that Jim’s out sized personality overshadowed the fact that he was an absolutely outstanding athlete in his own right and his accomplishments in and around the Hastings and Peterborough area are significant but less well known even to many of the Angels players he coached.
So how did Jim Morrow, a first-rate athlete, become such a significant and long-term contributor to the Paul Currelly Angels? The explanation begins with Jim’s formative years in and around Hastings, Ontario.
As Jim never spoke much about himself beyond family members and close friends, he perhaps left the impression with us that enthusiasm was his only strength. As a youth in the 1950’s, it became evident that Jim Morrow was a highly talented athlete. Hockey and fast pitch softball, as it was for most male athletes of the era, were Jim’s main athletic pursuits.
During his teenage years, Jim was the captain of the 1948-1949 provincial champion Hastings Midget hockey team and he followed up in 1949 as a major contributor to the local fast pitch Junior provincial championship team. It soon became evident that Jim’s talents and successes would lead to expanded opportunities in nearby Peterborough. As his local nickname suggested (later to be revealed), he brought a rare talent to the Peterborough fastball league.
During the 1950’s, Jim played Junior hockey with Peterborough and was a fixture as a player in the first rate Peterborough City Softball League. This league played its games at the East City Bowl (a softball facility that was constructed in a natural amphitheatre beside the Otonobee River). The unique facility soon became a hub that attracted some of the very best fast pitch softball players in Ontario and beyond. Pitching was elite during this era.
One of Jim’s favourite stories from his playing days in Peterborough was his fence clearing homer off of legendary hurler and American Mormon missionary Ray Judd. This was a very rare accomplishment as Judd only had apparently one recorded loss during his 5 year local tenure.
Unofficially, the league was such a good draw, that fans gathered in very large numbers sometimes exceeding a thousand fans for highly anticipated games. During an interview with the Peterborough Examiner well after his retirement, Judd said that for some games, fans climbed the trees lining one side of field while others climbed to the rooftop of the adjacent Quaker Oats building on Hunter Street.
Jim Morrow’s career in the league spanned the late 1940’s into the mid 1950’s. Many in the Peterborough area that attended games as players, officials and fans returned to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the league. After a stellar career south of the border and internationally, Judd returned for the festivities as did many of his contemporaries.
Jim Morrow belonged in very esteemed company indeed and given his warm and outgoing personality, his family agreed that he would have been in his glory during the celebration. Jim passed a year prior to the event.
Later on, after Jim ended his playing career, he shifted his focus to coaching in the Hastings area and directed an OASA Intermediate team to a provincial championship. The accomplishment foreshadowed what was to be his most successful coaching stint of his fine career.
The development of a young player often rests upon natural talents, early coaching and parent encouragement. Jim and Marg Morrow’s daughter Su had benefited from all of these advantages and when it became evident that she was an outstanding fastball talent in her own right, she joined the Angels as a teenager and predictably Mom and Dad came too and eventually took up residence in Cobourg.
Most local sports fans would agree that very little ever escaped Paul Currelly’s eye when it came to talent. Currelly found a gem in Jim Morrow! In very short order, Jim became the Angels’ first base coach and formed an enduring on field partnership with Paul. Over the years, a very close friendship also emerged between Paul and Marian Currelly and Jim and Marg Morrow.
I want to leave the anecdotes and stories for the former players to tell. For me, I often remember the times when Jim would roll up to our house and take my 2–3-year-old son for a ride in his transport truck. While not anything to do with fastball, it was everything to do with kindness and generosity. A big truck rolled in but it was a giant of a man who drove it.
John Hayden Sr.
Jim Morrow Memoirs
When I think of what Jim Morrow meant to our Angel softball teams, the first two words that come to mind are dedication and support.
He was all about 'team'. Depending on where our games would be, he would sometimes show up in his truck tractor. He always wanted the players to succeed. His enthusiasm with his big personality and fun nature made him and Paul Currelly a magnificent coaching match.
Fond memories indeed of Jim 'Long-Ball' Morrow.
Jim Morrow or Jim Bob as I liked to call him was a special man and great coach of the Cobourg Angels. It is really hard to come up with a few words to describe the impact he had on me as a ball player and as a person. For a kid from Belleville who had an opportunity to experience the culture of the Angels that he and Mr. Currelly nurtured was life changing for me.
It was so evident from my first season with the Angels that Jim loved life, loved Margaret and his kids and his other family the Angels. His dedication to the team was unwavering. On a number of occasions he would pull up to the diamond in his transport truck in the middle of a delivery run. I remember the first time I witnessed this and I was totally blown away.
If I had to name Jim's best qualities I would say hard work, loyalty and his sense of humor. He incorporated all of these qualities into his coaching style. I like to think that he helped to instill those same qualities in me as a person.
Nancy Cronin Angels 1980-1991
Jennifer (Dalgarno) Ashley:
It’s impossible to think of Mr. Morrow without a big smile coming to my face. He was such a breath of fresh air to be around. When coaching, he was always very helpful and positive and made everyone feel like they mattered. His fun-loving sense of humour helped to bring the team together and build team chemistry. He constantly had us in stitches. His knowledge of the game and his coaching expertise made us all better players. I will always cherish the many years I was able to spend playing for Jim Morrow and Paul Currelly.
Jen (Dalgarno) Ashley, Cobourg Angels 1989-1990
Mr. Morrow was one big kid! And that’s one of many reasons why we loved him.
He made coming to the ball park fun. He always had a smile on his face, except when he was yelling at his daughter Su! Ha! He was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and cared about his players to the point that he would play caps with them at tournaments! Lol
He was the type of coach that you would do anything for because you wanted to win so badly for him…. He was a one of a kind😊
Nancy Jane Dalgarno:
Patsy Currelly Hand:
It is an honour to add to my reflections of Jim Morrow or as I called him, Mr. Morrow.
I first met Mr. Morrow when he came to his daughter Suzanne’s first game with the Cobourg Angels (1977) in Trenton. He started the year as a parent and by the end of the year had a spot on the bench as assistant coach. He was a wonderful addition to our team not only because of his knowledge of the game but because of his larger-than-life personality. Over the years, we would learn about his own athletic abilities in both Hockey and Softball. As the story goes, while playing softball in Hastings he was known to hit many out of the park home runs earning him the title of “Long Ball Morrow”.
Mr. Morrow lived life to the fullest! He was committed and dedicated to our team, to his family and to his job. His voracious laugh could be heard anywhere on the diamond and his personality uplifted and melded our team into a family. Now, on the other side of this joyous, wonderful man was the ferocious intensity that would sometimes be directed at the umpires (On more than one occasion, he was tossed from the game). This intensity was of course justifiably supported by his fellow coaches and his players. As a player, having your coaches stand up for you in this matter made you feel respected and protected and again, reinforced the feeling of family.
Mr. Morrow drove transport for a living. His route was from Toronto to Ottawa. I distinctly remember walking with him after a game at Victoria Park to where the Y is now, to his truck that was parked and still running (to keep his load cool). He had timed it so that he could stop on route to come coach the game and then continue to his destination. I was stunned to think that he had so many more hours of work ahead of him.
Dedication, Commitment. In those days the truckers would be on their CB radios and he told me that after a game, he would get on the radio and transmit how the Angels had done. His trucker buddies would enquire about the games and Mr. Morrow could go on for hours about his beloved Angels. He said, “Everyone knows about the Angels”.
Mr. Morrow was One-of-a-Kind. He was a second father to many of his players. His personality complimented my dad’s and they not only had a very successful team, they just enjoyed being around each other, on and off the field. During the off-season once the Morrows were back from the Cottage, every Saturday night would be spent together watching the Leafs and enjoying treats made by the wives. They travelled together to both coasts in Canada, seeing the sights and of course watching a few amateur ball games!
Their friendship and the cohesiveness of their qualities, established the foundation for the success of the Cobourg Angels.