In a pitching career that lasted 10 years in professional baseball, and considerably longer in adult-league competition, all 22 of Dan Morogiello’s major league appearances came in 1983. The lefty was an unsung hero for the Baltimore Orioles team that won that season’s World Series.
Daniel Joseph Morogiello was born on March 26, 1955, in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Frank, was the son of a New York City Police Department detective who’d emigrated from Italy. Frank spent some time with the Carbondale Pioneers of the Class D North Atlantic League in the late 1940s, but made his mark as a popular history teacher and pioneering football coach at Brooklyn’s Canarsie High School. Since 1998, the Canarsie Chiefs have played on Frank Morogiello Field. Frank married Anne Perry, and they had four children: Anne, Dan, Frank, Jr. and Joan.
Dan played baseball in Little League, American Legion, Canarsie Colt League and, later, the Atlantic Coast Baseball League with the Lyndhurst club. At Canarsie High School, he captained the Chiefs as a senior and earned three All-City selections. In one memorable outing, he outdueled future big leaguer Pete Falcone of rival Lafayette High, 1-0.1
As a quarterback, Morogiello was the team captain and All-City football choice. Following his 1972 graduation, he turned down a couple of baseball scholarships to attend Milford Academy in Connecticut, described as “the top prep school football team in the nation.”2 Morogiello called it “a football factory.”3 He planned to improve his grades enough to play quarterback for a major Division I program. “Because of his pitching ability, a future in pro baseball is still a possibility,” read a September 1973 New York Daily News article. “But right now, he will concentrate on football with hopes that coaches like Joe Paterno [Penn State] and Johnny Majors [Pitt] will like what they see.”4
“I wasn’t even thinking of baseball,” Morogiello recalled in 2020.
Nevertheless, he did pitch a few games for Milford’s baseball team in the spring. One of them was a victory over a right-hander from visiting Worcester Academy whom several Detroit Tigers scouts had traveled to see, Mark Fidrych. Despite the defeat, Detroit drafted Fidrych in the 10th round of the June 1974 draft –two rounds after choosing Morogiello with their eighth pick. He didn’t sign, but a combination of gridiron concussions, a broken nose, and appealing college opportunities had convinced him to shift his focus to pitching. Morogiello matriculated at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.
Led by catcher Rick Cerone, the Seton Hall Pirates entered the 1975 College World Series ranked ninth in the nation. Future major league pitcher Charlie Puleo was also on the team, prompting one reporter to dub them the “Italian Battalion.”5 After Seton Hall upset number-one Florida State. Morogiello, a freshman who topped the team with four saves, started the loss to the Texas Longhorns that ended the school’s fantastic season.6
In 1976, he finished his two-year college career by firing a 14-strikeout, four-hitter to beat Temple, 1-0, in an elimination game on May 29.7 The masterpiece capped a season in which he went 6-1e and posted the NCAA’s third-best rate of strikeouts-per-nine innings with a fastball regularly clocked at 93 mph.8 That earned him a place on New Jersey’s All-University team.9
On June 8, the Atlanta Braves drafted Morogiello in the third round and scout Bob Turzilli signed him the following week. On a questionnaire that he filled out early in his professional career, the southpaw listed one of his thrills as “Being clocked at 95 mph at Atlanta (Fulton County) Stadium in June 1976.”10
Morogiello made five starts for the Kingsport (TN) Braves in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He only won once, but his 26:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio earned him a quick promotion to Single-A. “Don’t look now,” wrote Wayne Minshew in the Atlanta Constitution, “but the Braves have in their farm system a pitcher who talks to baseballs ala Mark Fidrych. He is Dan Morogiello, who pitches for Greenwood of the Western Carolinas League.”11
After winning four of five decisions for Greenwood, Morogiello three-hit the Asheville Tourists in a September playoff game in Atlanta. Next, he reported to the Instructional League in Sarasota, Florida, where he was tutored by former All-Stars Johnny Sain and Bob Veale.12
In 1977, Morogiello advanced to the Double-A Savannah Braves. He walked 99 batters to lead the Southern League but earned 25 decisions in 26 starts. His 13 victories and three shutouts would remain his best single-season marks as a pro. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves lost 101 games, so he was considered one of the organization’s prized prospects Back at Savannah in 1978, Morogiello lowered his ERA from 3.99 to 3.10. He started more games, worked more innings, and struck out more batters than any Southern League lefty, but his record slipped to 8-14.
Morogiello married Nancy Auld on September 10, 1978. After a rough stint with the Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan League — 0-5 with an 8.57 ERA in seven appearances — he made his Triple-A debut for the Richmond Braves shortly after his 24th birthday. He continued to struggle in the International League.13 Entering his May 27 start against Charleston, his record was a dismal 2-6 with a 5.51 ERA. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning that night but lost again after coughing up four runs.14 On a Friday the 13th in July, he was within one pitch of a rain-shortened, 1-0 win in Norfolk when the game was postponed with two outs and a full count on the batter. “I haven’t had a break all year,” he lamented.15
He rebounded to finish 12-13 with a 3.56 ERA in 31 starts. His control improved, and he was tougher to hit than ever. In the International League semi-finals on September 4, for example, he one-hit the Syracuse Chiefs, allowing only a disputed infield single with two outs in the ninth when the ball was bobbled by a Richmond infielder.16 He elected to skip winter ball after working a career-high 200 innings, but Atlanta protected him on the 40-man roster and invited him to spring training.
At that stage of his career, the six-foot-one, 200-pound Morogiello sported a horseshoe mustache and a large wad of chewing tobacco in his right cheek. “In Richmond, in 1979, I caught a line drive and the ball hit me in the ribs,” he recalled. “I was gasping for air and out flew the wad of tobacco. I couldn’t talk or breathe. All that tobacco I put in my mouth can become a hazard.”17
Morogiello made it to the last round of cuts in 1980 before returning to Richmond where he started slowly again. In June, he held Pawtucket hitless into the eighth inning but lost the game, 2-1. After a 2-0 defeat in his next outing, his record fell to 5-8.18 He received a total of three runs of support in a five-start stretch in July.19 On August 16 against Toledo, after he lost another no-hit bid in the seventh inning, Richmond blew a seven-run lead and lost in 10.20
Nevertheless, he finished with an 11-12 record. For the second straight season, he ranked second in the International League in innings pitched and led the circuit’s southpaws in victories. In 196 frames, he permitted only 50 walks. His strikeout totals also declined, and his ERA ticked up to 4.04, but it appeared that he’d earned a legitimate chance to break into the big leagues after playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
In 1981, Morogiello pitched in Atlanta’s first exhibition game, following Phil Niekro and free-agent acquisition Gaylord Perry to the mound.21 Both of those Hall of Fame right-handers would be 42 by Opening Day, and the Braves deployed the majors’ oldest pitching staff that season. “They were worrying about producing at that moment, not giving young players a chance,” Morogiello said.22
At 26 he was converted to bullpen duty and returned to Savannah. “[Atlanta manager] Bobby Cox was the one who decided to make me a reliever. When I made the move from starting to relieving, I eliminated the slow breaking pitch and concentrated on the hard slider,”.23 In a club-leading 43 appearances, he saved seven games to rank second on the team but surrendered 78 hits and issued 35 walks over 66 innings as he adjusted. “
In October, Morogiello’s wife Nancy gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter named Vanessa. In later years, the family would also welcome a son, Dan, and another daughter, Jenna, Later that fall, Braves owner Ted Turner replaced Cox with Joe Torre. “I think Bobby Cox liked me,” Morogiello recalled. “Then he gets fired and I’m in limbo.”24 “Obviously, I wanted out as soon as possible,” he said later. “I’m not bad mouthing them…I just regret the situation.”25
A few weeks before spring training, Atlanta traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals for Donnie Moore. Hoping for a fresh start, Morogiello appeared in a personal high 57 games for the Louisville Redbirds in the Triple-A American Association. Though he showed good control and led the club’s left-handers with six saves, he was tagged for a career-worst 11.5 hits-per-nine-innings. St. Louis won the 1982 World Series without calling him up and he was wearing a Cardenales de Lara uniform by the end of October. “The second day I was in Venezuela, I received a call from the Orioles,” he recalled. “I didn’t even know I was a free agent. No one from St. Louis told me.”26
Morogiello did an outstanding job for Lara, going 5-0 with a 1.84 in 25 appearances.27 In the All-Star Game, he started for the American imports against a native Venezuelan squad featuring Dave Concepcion and Manny Trillo. Suddenly, a handful of teams — including Cox’s Toronto Blue Jays — called to express interest.28 “The Orioles were the only team that called me before I had the good year in winter ball,” he said. “So, I was kind of leaning in that direction all along.”29
“It sounds crazy that a guy trying to break into the major leagues for seven years decided to try to make the best pitching staff in the league,” Morogiello acknowledged at Orioles spring training. “But I saw there was a little gap in their bullpen for a left-hander and here I am.”30 Baltimore manager Joe Altobelli remembered him from the International League. “He came right over and said hello, so that made me feel good from the start,” Morogiello said.31 “I liked the way he comes right at you,” the skipper remarked.32 “When I go out on the mound, I try to turn that pressure on the hitter and throw strikes from the start,” the left-hander explained.33
Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller observed, “(Morogiello) throws the ball in the upper 80’s. He throws strikes, is kind of sneaky, doesn’t say anything and is very professional. He has a lot of qualities you’ve got to like — plus he throws an 87-mph sinker.”34 Wherever scouts employed the Jugs radar gun, Morogiello was still throwing low-90s heat, but Baltimore preferred the Ray Gun brand that recorded velocity readings 3-to-5 mph slower.
He remained football strong — able to bench press 300 pounds at a time when most ballplayers still avoided the weight room — and his hand strength was legendary. “Morogiello’s claim to fame was that he could tear a phone book in half with his bare hands,” said Cal Ripken.35
He came so close to making the Opening Day roster that his luggage had already been loaded on the team’s equipment truck to Baltimore, only to be pulled off and re-routed to Rochester, home of the club’s International League affiliate. He confessed to a reporter that, because of his string of disappointments, “Twice in the last three years, I thought about leaving baseball for something else.”36
While the Orioles never promised Morogiello anything, they told him he had a good chance to rejoin the team if he kept pitching like he had in spring training. “That’s the first time a club said something like that to me and meant it,” he remarked after Baltimore purchased his contract and summoned him to the majors on May 18.37
Two nights later, he was back with the Orioles, pitching in Toronto. He allowed one run in a 2 ⅓-innings relief stint and whiffed lefty-swingers Ernie Whitt and Lloyd Moseby in succession for his first big league strikeouts. He pitched three more times in the next five days, including a scoreless 3 ⅓ inning outing in Baltimore in which he permitted the Twins just one infield hit. The rookie didn’t allow a single run in five June appearances, two of which came in front of more than two dozen friends and family members at Yankee Stadium. Though he went to Shea Stadium more often as a kid, he said, “I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said it wasn’t a little special for me to come home as a member of a big league team. I remember coming here as a kid watching Mickey Mantle play.”38
The Yankees roster included Rick Cerone, his former Seton Hall batterymate. “Rick’s always been in my corner when things got tough,” the lefty said. “He told me about how long it took for Ron Guidry to make it, and things like that are encouraging.”39
Morogiello also enjoyed working with Baltimore’s primary catcher. “Rick Dempsey is probably my idol. I love the guy. He’s funny, he’s witty and he knows the game of baseball. He’s a throwback from the old era, a very tough hardnosed catcher. And for whatever reason, he took a liking to me.”40
The Orioles told Morogiello he was in the majors to help Tippy Martinez, who he complimented as “the best lefthanded short reliever in the game” that summer.41 Morogiello’s first dozen appearances all came in Baltimore losses but he was the only southpaw in the club’s bullpen in July when Martinez missed the entire month because of an appendectomy. On July 9, the Orioles were in a three-way tie for second place, two games behind Toronto, when the rookie saw his first action with a game on the line. After entering with two on and two out in the ninth inning, he whiffed Seattle’s Pat Putnam with an up-and-in fastball to keep the score tied.42
Two nights later, with Baltimore on the verge of blowing a seven-run lead against Oakland, Morogiello got the last six outs of a one-run victory for his only major league save. The Orioles went on to win 10 of 11. By the end of July, Baltimore’s 19-7 record for the month had lifted the team into first place just as Martinez returned from the disabled list. Starting pitcher Mike Flanagan also came back from the disabled list a week later, and Morogiello went back to Rochester with a 3.24 ERA in a dozen appearances.
The Orioles recalled Morogiello for the September stretch run, and he enjoyed his best big-league outing. On September 18, the Brewers knocked Jim Palmer out early at Memorial Stadium. Baltimore trailed, 7-0, when Morogiello relieved in the second inning and allowed a walk and a hit to the first two batters. But the 28-year-old rookie settled down and worked 6 innings of five-hit scoreless relief, allowing the Orioles to fight back and seize a 9-7 lead. He would have earned his first big-league win, but Martinez blew a save in the top of the ninth for the first time since returning from the DL. Nevertheless, when first-place Baltimore prevailed in the bottom of the frame, Morogiello was one of the day’s heroes.
Three nights later in Detroit, the Orioles came from behind in the ninth inning to beat the second-place Tigers, slicing their magic number to clinch the American League East to three. Again, after a starting pitcher faltered early, Morogiello’s 3 ⅓ scoreless innings of relief gave his teammates time to regroup.
He entered a tie game with two on and one out in the bottom of the ninth 24 hours later and surrendered a game-winning hit to Detroit’s Lou Whitaker. In 22 appearances, Morogiello’s ERA was 2.39 and he’d held opposing left-handed hitters to a .154 batting average (versus .326 by righties), but he’d never pitch in the majors again.
The Orioles clinched the division three days after his last appearance and went on to defeat the Phillies in the World Series. Morogiello wasn’t on the post-season roster but he received a ring and a $12,000 partial share of the playoff money, and spoke at numerous off-season events around Baltimore.43
On February 7, however, his chances of pitching for the 1984 team took a hit when the Orioles signed free agent lefty Tom Underwood, a 30-year-old, 10-season veteran who could also start. Morogiello — “Mo” to his teammates—took the news in stride. “This is like my life history. I’ve never come to spring training and had it made with a ball club. The best thing I can do for myself and for the club is to make a hard decision for them. I’ve come too far to throw in the towel.” 44
Altobelli insisted that Morogiello was in the competition for a roster spot, but the pitcher wasn’t surprised when he was sent to Triple-A. “They had their mind made up before I got here,” he said. “I’m going to go down there and do my best to make someone want me.”45 He was effectively trapped in the minors because the Orioles could not recall him without exposing him to waivers, so he welcomed a July trade to the Tigers, but never made it back to the majors, finishing his career in 1985 with a 6-0 record for the Richmond Braves. In a pre-game ceremony at the conclusion of the season, the local booster club presented him with an award for being the team’s most competitive player.46
Bob Turzilli, the scout who had initially signed him, also helped make his exit from the game a smooth transition. Turzilli was one of the founders of Belden Brick Sales and Service (known as Belden Tri-State Building Materials since a 2009 merger), New York City’s chief supplier of bricks and building materials. As of 2020, Morogiello had been working in sales there for 32 years. “Not residential,” he explained. “We supply New York City Housing, schools, the Trump buildings. Things like that.”
Morogiello did not leave baseball behind. “I pitched in over-30 leagues until I was 60,” he said. For more than a decade, he starred in the semipro Metropolitan League. When he pitched a no-hitter for the Hackensack Troasts in 1996, it was his fourth straight shutout and improved his record to 10-1.47 At age 41, he was named the circuit’s pitcher of the year. “I would say –and I’ve pitched in a lot of leagues — the Met League, with the wooden bats, is legit upper-A to low Double-A baseball, depending on the team.”48
For four years 1999-2002, he was the pitching coach at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, New Jersey. In 2004-05, he guided the hurlers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.49 His son played for both teams at the time. As of 2020 Morogiello, a member of the Bergen County (NJ) Hall of Fame, lives in Whitehouse Station.
Memorial Stadium is long gone, but Morogiello attends the occasional reunions of the 1983 World Series champion Orioles at Camden Yards. “Just getting to the big leagues after all those years in the minors is something that I appreciate,” he said.50
Last revised: November 23, 2020
Special thanks to Dan Morogiello for filling in some blanks in telephone interviews with the author on October 5 and October 16, 2020.
This biography was reviewed by Gregory H. Wolf and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Evan Katz.
1 Morogiello’s Baseball Questionnaire.
2 Bill Travers, “Finds Pigskin is Better Than Cowhide,” Daily News (New York, New York), September 2, 1973: BKL120.
3 Unless otherwise cited, all Dan Morogiello quotes are from a telephone interviews with Malcolm Allen on October 5 and October 16, 2020.
4 Travers, “Finds Pigskin is Better Than Cowhide.”
5 Frank Bilovsky, “Morogiello Working Out Minor Details,” Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), April 7, 1983: 1D.
6 2013 Seton Hall Baseball Media Guide: 93.
7 “Seton Hall Gains Maine Rematch,” Daily Record (Morristown, New Jersey), May 30, 1976: 41.
8 1984 Baltimore Orioles Media Guide: 150.
9 “Three Rutgers Players on All-University Division Team,” Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey), June 8, 1976: 9.
10 Morogiello’s Baseball Questionnaire.
11 Wayne Minshew, “Still Time at the Plate for Royster,” Atlanta Constitution, August 1, 1976: 2C.
12 Morogiello’s Baseball Questionnaire.
13 Venezuelan League statistics from http://www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/mostrar.php?ID=morodan001 (last accessed October 15, 2020).
14 “International League,” The Sporting News, June 16, 1979: 45.
15 “Morogiello Mourns,” The Sporting News, August 4, 1979: 41.
16 “Game of Tuesday, September 4,” The Sporting News, September 22, 1979: 37.
17 Kent Baker, “O’s Morogiello Faces Another Fight for Job,” Baltimore Sun, February 24, 1984: B1.
18 “Morogiello’s Misery,” The Sporting News, July 19, 1980: 53.
19 “Freed Returns to Rochester,” The Sporting News, August 2, 1980: 39.
20 “Boddicker Extends Streak,” The Sporting News, September 6, 1980: 58.
21 “Spring Training,” Star-Gazette (Elmira, New York), March 8, 1981: 20.
22 Kent Baker, “Morogiello Fills in for Tippy,” Baltimore Sun, July 12, 1983: B2.
23 “Morogiello Looms as Orioles’ Sleeper,” Democrat and Chronicle, March 9, 1983: 4D.
24 Ray Parrillo, “Morogiello Makes Pitch with Birds,” Baltimore Sun, March 12, 1983: B1.
25 Baker, “Morogiello Fills in for Tippy.”
26 Parrillo “Morogiello Makes Pitch with Birds.”
27 1984 Baltimore Orioles Media Guide: 149.
28 Parrillo “Morogiello Makes Pitch with Birds.”
29 “Morogiello Looms as Orioles’ Sleeper.”
30 Parrillo “Morogiello Makes Pitch with Birds.”
31 “Morogiello Looms as Orioles’ Sleeper.”
32 Parrillo “Morogiello Makes Pitch with Birds.”
33 Parrillo “Morogiello Makes Pitch with Birds.”
34 Morogiello Looms as Orioles’ Sleeper.”
35 Thomas Boswell, “Where There’s a Will, There’s an Oriole Way,” Washington Post, May 31, 1998: D10.
36 Bilovsky, “Morogiello Working Out Minor Details.”
37 Baker, “Morogiello Fills in for Tippy.”
38 Ray Parrillo, “Oriole Notes: Morogiello is ‘Home’,” Baltimore Sun, June 28, 1983: D2.
39 Parrillo “Morogiello Makes Pitch with Birds.”
40 Jim Driscoll, “Semi-Retirement Home: Ex-Oriole Enjoys Challenge with Saddle Brook,” Record (Bergen County, New Jersey), August 18, 1998: S16.
41 Baker, “Morogiello Fills in for Tippy.”
42 Baker, “Morogiello Fills in for Tippy.”
43 “World Series Shares,” The Sporting News. November 21, 1983: 51.
44 Kent Baker, “O’s Morogiello Faces Another Fight for Job,” Baltimore Sun, February 24, 1984: B1.
45 Richard Justice, “Morogiello is Optioned to Rochester,” Baltimore Sun, March 28, 1984: E4.
46 Bill Deekens, “Bubble Bursts: R-Brave Season Ends with Nothing,” Richmond-Times Dispatch, September 3, 1985: 14.
47 Greg Mattura, “Morogiello’s Win is Near Perfect,” Record, August 10, 1996: S08
48 Jim Driscoll, “Semi-Retirement Home: Ex-Oriole Enjoys Challenge with Saddle Brook,” Record, August 18, 1998: S16.
49 “Dan Morogiello,” https://www.njithighlanders.com/sports/baseball/roster/coaches/dan-morogiello/12 (last accessed October 16, 2020).
50 Parrillo, “Oriole Notes: Morogiello is ‘Home’ ”