When the Nats finally started winning in 2012, the team’s public image became a heck of a lot more lovable than it had been in, say, 2009. Now and forever, nobody loves a bunch of lovable goofballs on a 100-loss team, but almost everyone loves a bunch of lovable goofballs on a 100-win juggernaut.
And so Michael Morse rose to meet the moment, and became everybody’s favorite lovable goofball. Thus, his departure this week will be met with uncommon sadness from Nats fans, who will miss Morse’s personality almost as much as his power. (And again, this admittedly would not be nearly the case if the Nats were still losers. Then, many people would be like, ‘meh, later, Beast dude.’)
Anyhow, as I’ve done with people like Caron Butler and Bruce Boudreau, it seems fitting to salute the departing star with nine of the most memorable moments from his Nats tenure. This is hardly a comprehensive list; it’s just things that I randomly thought of late on a Wednesday night. Why nine?
Uh, because he plays right field? Or just because. Whatever you like. And no, none of these is really about baseball.
Note: As readers pointed out, Morse actually played left field. What I meant was, you get nine memories because he also played first, and 3+7=10, and then you subtract one for the times he DH’d, and that’s 9. Thanks.
9. The Shaving Cream Bandit
Post-game shaving cream surprises are as played-out in the sports world as fake/dead girlfriend hoaxes. But Morse elevated the art by elongating it, stretching one simple action into a silent theater production involving sneaky entrances, funny faces and odd finger gestures. This is as good as a post-game shaving cream surprise can get.
8. The Shark Salute
By the end of the 2012 season, everyone at Nats Park was doing the Shark Chomp when Roger Bernadina came to the plate. It was universal, and joyous, and spontaneous, and NOT prompted by Clint, or the scoreboard, or the Nat Pack. Now, maybe this was inevitable, and maybe it wasn’t. But Morse adopting the Shark Chomp himself sure didn’t hurt matters.
7. Fifty Shades of Beast
I’m not sure that Morse loved his association with women’s soft-porn novels, but it was awesome nonetheless. He told Sarah during the season that the last book he read was “Fifty Shades of Grey,” before clarifying that his then-fiancee Jessica actually read it to him.
“I was like, ‘Put that away,’” he laughed. “‘You can’t be reading that.’ I felt like she was cheating on me.”
Regardless, this episode prompted the Nats bullpen to put on a special reading of the book, as seen above. Wouldn’t have been possible without Morse.
6. The Fake Home Run
“On Saturday night Michael Morse hit a grand slam that was called a single and then changed to a grand slam, but the umpires weren’t satisfied, so they sent everyone back to their original places, and after running the bases in reverse Morse then fake swung and hit a fake home run which Bob Carpenter fake called in his real voice,” I wrote at the time. Like, stuff like that doesn’t happen to Adam LaRoche.
5. The Samurai Cobra Snake
In fairness, this actually started before the 2012 campaign. But Morse’s pre-at-bat theatrics were unrivaled in weirdness, and attracted more attention than ever last year, as in this ESPN the Magazine segment.
“The perfect swing for me starts with my base, starts with my legs, my hips,” Morse told the publication. “It’s like coiling like a snake. I call it my Samurai Cobra Snake. I do it right before I get into the box. And from doing that move, my little Cobra Snake, my weight is already in the back of my leg, my front of my leg is real light on the ground.”
So was his bobblehead.
4. Morse Sings His Theme Song
This also happened in 2011, but it’s a necessary pre-cursor to what came later. Morse’s appearance on the MLB Network’s Intentional Talk was jam-packed with nutty goodness, but the nuttiest nugget came when Morse sang and danced his way through what would become his signature tune. I’ve watched this more times than I’m proud to admit.
3. The Low Tens
This is something only I seemed obsessed with, but golly, it seemed to me another bit of foreshadowing. It was a senseless, quick-developing, meaning-free gimmick that — along with all the wins — made Nats games fun to watch. ““The low tens, yeah, that was me,” he told MASN’s Kristina Akra. “Bringing back old school, you know? It’s catching on, and guys like it.”
2. The Beer Shower
There were so many indelible moments when the Nats celebrated their first-ever NL East title, but for my money, the best was Morse, enjoying a sudsy benediction with random outfield fans.
1. The ‘Take On Me’ sing-alongs
Ok, I’ve skipped a lot. I skipped his insane wedding. I skipped the “Marry Me Bryce Harper” sign. I skipped the bubble gum showers, and the decorated Gatorade bucket on top of Gio Gonzalez’s head. And those were all great moments, but they can’t come close to the late-game Nats Park a capella renditions of “Take On Me,” which just don’t happen without this goofball.
“Take On Me has all the giddy charm of “Sweet Caroline,” but doesn’t feel half as hokey,” Chris Richards wrote.
“Nationals Buoyed By Fans’ “Magical” A-Ha Singalongs To “Take On Me”—And Tonight’s Was The Best Yet,” Deadspin’s Timothy Burke wrote during the playoffs, with a magical video link.
“Probably the single greatest home-grown tradition inside Nats Park,” I wrote, and that still seems correct. That’s one of Morse’s legacies here, ridiculous or not.