De La Salle High School lost one of its most popular alumni when John Morreale Jr. died June 13th. He had a spectacular baseball career with the Cavaliers, as did his son John Morreale III. Both played on state championship teams, and their advanced careers facilitated other opportunities in amateur, collegiate and professional baseball.
A recent interview with Morreale III revealed a close relationship between father and son.
“I was so lucky to have a father who could learn the right way to play baseball, starting when I played on my first team of organized baseball,” John III explained. Furthermore, Morreale III talked about several occasions when his father took other young people under his wing to teach them not only about baseball, but about life in general.
As a junior in high school in 1958, Morreale Jr. played. on a talented De La Salle team that won the state title over Byrd High in Shreveport. He was the winning pitcher in the decisive championship. He was called to Times-Picayune All-Prep team as a tool player. The Cavaliers also included future professional players Allan Montreuil and Wayne Pietri. De La Salle-based Perfectos defeated Ruston for the US Legion title that summer. When he was not pitching, Morreale Jr. played. catcher. He was called to Times-Picayune All-Legion team as a catch.
With the addition of Floyd Fourroux (another future professional player), De La Salle repeated himself as prep and Legion state champions in 1959. Morreale Jr. was again named the city’s All-Prep team and elected to Times-Picayuneis the All-State team. However, there was quite a stir among local media in New Orleans when he was left out by the Louisiana baseball writers’ all-state team.
In the summer of 1959, Morreale Jr. played. in the All-American Amateur Baseball Association league in New Orleans where he was among the league’s leaders in hitting and hitting. He was selected to Rags Scheuermann’s star team that competed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. New Orleans was eliminated by Baltimore and finished with a 2-2 record.
Morreale Jr. participated in Southeast Louisiana in 1960, but did not play baseball. He signed with the Boston Red organization next year, as one of their scout tutors George digby had New Orleans ties. He was assigned to the Class D alpine in Texas, where New Orleans native Mel Parnell, a former Red Sox star pitcher, was manager. Morreale III told a story about how his father remembered catching a seemingly mile high flyball on his first field game in his first minor league game in the left field, a position he had never played before. Morreale Jr. just beat. 238 in 38 games and was released in June. Parnell told Times-Picayune“He was an excellent fielder, but he had trouble throwing and did not hit well.” Morreale III said his father had injured his knee while slipping, which may have ultimately contributed to his release.
For several years after, Morreale Jr. continued. to stay active on local New Orleans baseball and softball playgrounds. He played for the Ponchatoula Athletics semi-pro team, which finished second at the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita, Kansas, in 1963. His family owned Frankie and Johnny’s restaurant in the Uptown area, and he led several of the softball teams to the league championships. . He helped train many NORD Uptown Babe Ruth teams, including all-star squads that competed in the tournament after the season. He is a member of the De La Salle Hall of Fame.
One of his baseball students was his son, with whom he began working at a very young age. Morreale III said his father wanted him to be good at the game when he joined his first team. He told the story of trying out and making his first organized team as a 10-year-old without his father knowing. Apparently the young Morreale had been well prepared by his father.
Morreale III followed in his father’s footsteps at De La Salle with similar results. As a junior in 1988, the second baseman helped the Cavaliers win the state title over the Jesuits, their first since 1977. He recalled that after the team lost the first three games of the season, his father got his approval from the Cavaliers baseball coach to work with the players according to their usual workouts to get extra punching practice by using a punch cage in the gym. Morreale III believes that the extra work helped the team get back on track and eventually take home the state championship trophy. It was a sign of how Morreale Jr. enjoyed working with children to improve their game.
He got his third letter in baseball during his senior year. He was an All-District player for the De La Salle-based Legion team that summer. Morreale III also played for the basketball club De La Salle and received the Senior Award in 1989.
He attended George Wallace Junior College in Alabama during his freshman year in 1990, where he played with several other New Orleanians. He transferred to Delgado Community College for the 1991 season to play for coach Joe Scheuermann. He hit .302 with 29 RBI and was named the All-Region 23 junior college baseball team and Miss-Lou all-conference team. Morreale III said he expected to be selected in the MLB draft, but his name was never called.
He played for Northeast Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana Monroe) in the 1992 season. During the summer, he played in the local All-American Amateur Baseball Association league, as his father had done in 1959. Earlier years in the summer league, he had played under Rags Scheuermann, as his father. He was selected for Booster’s all-star team under Coach Joe Scheuermann (Rags’ son) who represented New Orleans in Johnstown. Morreale III was the MVP in the qualifying tournament in Altoona. Boosters won the national title over Lavonia, Michigan, with Morreale III one of the team’s leading hitters.
He returned to the Northeast for his final college season in 1993. He received honorable mention on the All-Southland Conference team as second baseman.
Morreale III was handed over again in the Major League Baseball draft from 1993, but major league scouts were certainly familiar with him from his appearance at the national tournament in AAABA in 1992. His father continued to hold training sessions with him, which included field balls, taking batting exercise, and runs on the fee of Audubon Park. Morreale III said, “My father helped me keep my dream alive.”
They took a trip to Plant City, Florida, in early 1994 for a trial with the Cincinnati Reds and got an offer. He later coached at the UNO when New Orleans Zephyrs (then affiliated with Triple-A to Milwaukee Brewers) batting coach Ron Jackson noticed him and recommended him to Brewers farm system managers Freddie Patek and Fred Stanley for a try. He did a good show and got an offer to sign with Brewers. He said his father had studied the list of smaller leagues and noted that the Brewers seemed to need more depth at second base than the Reds. So they signed a contract with the Brewers, who awarded him to Lo-A Beloit in Wisconsin.
In his first year at Beloit under manager Wayne Krenchicki, Morreale III was mainly used in a role that plays several infield positions. He laughs at his first game in the field at second base, when a high flyball came his way. Unlike his father’s situation 33 years before him, Morreale III did not make the catch. He hit a respectable .271 in 70 games and earned promotion to Hi-A Stockton (California) in 1995. However, he wound up tearing ligaments in his wrist that required surgery and extensive rehabilitation, thus limiting him to 30 games.
He started spring training in 1996 with Brewers’ Double-A squad. He felt he was making good progress in hitting. He said his stroke average was around .470 in spring show play when he was called up to replace second baseman Fernando Vina in the major leagues. He played against the Colorado Rockies and went 0-for-2. In one of his bats that met veteran scout Marvin Freeman with the bases loaded, he hit a line drive to the right field that was ugly a few centimeters. Morreale III still wonders how his future might have changed if it had landed in fair territory. He said: “It is true that baseball is a game of thumb.”
When he returned to Stockton for the regular season, he saw positive results from trying to strike with more force, but then tore a ligament in his knee as his foot was attached to his bag by a sliding base runner. Wanting to stick to the club, he did his rehabilitation in California. He tried to continue playing while still injured, but was injured again and broke his hand which required surgery. After playing only 50 games that season, he ended his playing career.
Morreale III joined his father in coaching the NORD Uptown Babe Ruth team. He said he was pleased with all the comments he had received from former ball players after hearing about his father’s death. Their feelings were indications of how much influence their father had on them.
The Morreale baseball family tree sprouted a third generation ball player. John Morreale IV is currently spending the summer with a travel team and will play as a senior in high school next year. Morreale III said he was trying to teach his son everything that was originally handed down from his father. The messages are still the same. “Work hard to improve your skills. Give 100% all the time. Be a good teammate. Get through the ups and downs. “Young Morreale would do well to live up to the baseball bloodlines.