Standing Tall at 5'7": A Giant Friend Named Joe
I thought it would be fun to share one of my flagship, stand-out experiences with the New York Football Giants. Now, like many true blue fans, I’ve been a fan since I entered the world at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn back in… well, a long time ago (lets just leave it at that). My grandpa Julius Gerber started it, and was a season ticket holder since the earliest days of Gifford and Landry (perhaps we’ll get into the PSL discussion sometime since after 60+ years, we are no longer season ticket holders); and he carried the love of Giants football to his daughters, Laura (my Mom) and Barbara; and his daughter’s spouses, Michael (my Dad) and Ernie. And they shared it with my younger brother Andy, and me. (And I like to think I have carried Giants football to my dog, Riley - but she doesn’t quite care for all the screaming and yelling at the TV).
But one of my standout memories that solidified my connection to Giants football began when I was a teenager. We had moved to New Jersey, (this is where I give away my approximate age), and I was a HUGE Joe Morris (RB 20) fan. I even had a life-sized poster of Little Joe (the fireplug) taped to the door in my bedroom - he was only 5’7”, but known as an absolute plowing force, so the poster was kind like a height meter… Wait! I cannot believe I just found it on eBay! Here it is:
I also had a Joe Morris trading card I carried around in my wallet - I know this sounds just a little nuts for a teenage girl! I would watch games every Sunday with card in hand, and point it at the TV as ‘voo doo‘ toward the opposing team. Like my superstitions today, I HAD to have my Joe Morris card in my hard for games. It kind of looked like this:
By the way, I’ve been superstitious about Giants football since those days - when I refused to watch the game in the same room as my parents, for fear we would lose! I only watched in the guest room! And of course… with my Joe card in hand!
So one day, my Dad took me to see a Jaycee’s (it’s a men’s club) charity basketball game in my town. Some of the Giants were playing against the Jaycees. Maybe my Dad was even playing in the game. Joe was one of the Giants who was there! The fact that I eventually became a great shopper may have started that night, because on that evening I paid a little kid (he was like 5 years old) $5.00 so that I could take his seat on the bleachers behind my favorite Giant, Joe Morris! And that was the night my special friendship with Joe started. I shared the contents of my wallet - my Joe Morris card - with him, and told him how big of a fan I was, and he was just as nice as could be.
The next Summer, my brother Andy went up to Offense Defense Football Camp in Connecticut, as he did most years. A lot of pro players attended Offense-Defense to help teach the kids how to play football, and how to play on a team. We always went up to visit my brother, because it was there that we would also get to meet some of the players. As a young fan, it was such an exciting opportunity! It was there that I met up with Joe again! And once again, he was super nice! I was so lucky to be able to share some more time with my favorite player.
A few weeks later, I was at home after a day at my Summer job, and the phone rang. My Mom answered. She came in to get me with a strange smile on her face (a smile that is just so ‘my Mom’ when something ‘uniquely interesting’ is happening) and said, “Joe Morris is on the phone!” Really? THE Joe Morris was calling ME? WOW!!!!
It was so cool! I was so cool! The Giants were starting training camp at Fairleigh Dickinson University, just a town over from me, and he was calling to invite me to watch the team at camp! How special was I??? Well, needless to say, Joe made me feel like I was important - and for a young and insecure teenage girl about to embark on some of the most challenging growth periods in my life, this meant the world to me.
Around this period in my life, we were fortunate to see the Giants win their first SuperBowl in 1986 - SuperBowl XXI. By the way, that year Joe broke his own club record for 1516 yards, and was nominated to the ProBowl - along with Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Mark Bavaro, Phil Simms, Jim Burt, Brad Benson, Leonard Marshall and Sean Landeta. I was getting ready to go off to my freshman year in college at the University of Miami. I was leaving home and my best friend - my brother Andy - wanted to do something special. So he sent a NY Giants plaque to Joe, and Joe had it signed by the entire 1986-87 SuperBowl XXI team! I still have that plaque, but it’s in a different house on a display shelf, so I will have to take a picture and post it later. It was super special - and it’s still fun to point out the various (illegible) signatures of players on that historical Bill Parcell’s-led team.
There were 2 or 3 years when I had the privilege to get that Summer phone call from my friend Joe to be his guest at Giants training camp. One standout memory I’ll always have is when he stood me outside the dorm area, looked me in the eye as Leonard Marshall walked by, and said with conviction, “If you EVER even think about dating one of these guys, I’ll take your nose and turn it upside down.” Now PLEASE, take this the right way! This is not a commentary on #70 - I merely remember him walking by as Joe was saying this, and it is not a commentary on turning someone’s nose upside down. It is to say, however, that Joe was protective of me, a very innocent, very naive teenage girl. And again, to this day, just that he cared enough to give me that coaching, means the world to me.
My final special call came in 1991 for Joe’s retirement party. It was being held at LT’s restaurant close to the stadium. Joe invited my family to be there, and my brother and I sat at the table with Joe and LT’s family. When he stood up to say a few words being broadcast live on the radio in the NY/NJ area - after all, Joe was the Giants’ all-time leading RB, and the Giants were a PURE running team when it came to offense back in the day - I don’t remember verbatim, but we all remember him commenting about some of his most special memories of his career, and thanking his fans and people who had become such important friends while he played. We’ll never forget it - it’s one of those images that is forever embedded in my head - Joe standing up at the microphone and looking over at us. And once again, making my brother and me feel special.
While I was a teenager back then, and I was to face so many life adventures and lessons in the years to come, Joe has always stood out to me as someone in and outside of the NY Giants organization who made one of the memorable impacts on my life. He made me feel important, special… and I want to thank him for that.
After many years of trying to track him down, I was so happy to finally have the opportunity to reconnect with Joe this year - by email - and ironically, through another great Giants alum. Today I chatted with Joe live on the phone - for the first time in, well, A LOT of years! And how refreshing that I can honestly say - the guy I spoke with today may be older (as am I), but it was the exact same, protective and engaging person that I remember from so many years ago. I can only hope that I’ll have the opportunity to see him again in person in the near future, and continue our friendship where we left off.
Thank you my friend for making a huge difference in this girl’s life.
(an appropriate image on a week like this one)
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