New York — Sitting next to his father in the Citi Field visitors’ dugout Wednesday, Logan Morrison retold the story, how they were together on April 17 when Tom Morrison learned he had stage IV lung cancer.
His father’s lips quivering and eyes watering, Logan Morrison finished speaking and let the emotion behind his words overtake him as well.
“I’ll never forget this,” Logan Morrison said. “They told him what stage it was and everything, he goes, ‘Well, I guess I just have one question: Am I going to be around long enough to see my son get his first big-league hit?’ I started crying. I started bawling. That’s the first thing he thought about. I know how much it means to him, and it’s pretty special.”
Logan Morrison turned 23 Wednesday, but it was his father who received the big gift this week. Tuesday, for the first time from the stands, he watched his son play in the major leagues. The Marlins promoted Morrison from Triple-A New Orleans on July 27, but Tom’s condition prevented him from meeting his son until now.
Unable to fly because of the risk to his immune system, Tom Morrison received permission from his doctors to take a train from his Slidell, La., home to New York. Tom Morrison departed at 8:02 Sunday morning and disembarked at Penn Station at 2:02 Monday afternoon.
“The kid is leaving his dream,” said Tom Morrison, who was a central figure in his son’s baseball development. “You’re happy for him. I made him wave at me, though.”
Tom Morrison spent much of the spring and summer in the hospital, and on two occasions nearly died. The cancer has spread to his brain. Perpetual fevers and the danger of dehydration precluded him sitting in the Zephyr Field stands for all of his son’s games, even though Slidell is only a 30-minute drive from New Orleans.
Though he never smoked, Tom Morrison parents’ did. Second-hand smoke was problematic. He also would help his father tear out blast furnaces, exposing himself to coal dust and asbestos. A chief gunner’s mate in the Coast Guard, Tom Morrison constantly was around diesel fuels on flight decks.
“My parents used to roll the windows up and smoke, so, you know, I had plenty of chances,” Tom Morrison said. “You can’t change it, just don’t do it to your kid. You have to have a better life for your kid. That’s the best thing I did.”
During an unseasonably cold New Orleans winter, Tom Morrison was coughing a little more than usual. He’s always had respiratory issues and figured he had a cold. The antihistamine prescription he received exacerbated his symptoms.
“From then on it was downhill,” said Tom Morrison, whose facing a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent. “I was losing weight. The fever was the worst thing. I just couldn’t get rid of it. It kept going to 102. Now it’s under control. I was weighing about 226. I’m 260 now.”
A high school All-American in football, Tom Morrison played for Kansas University in 1977. He started off as a defensive end and moved to guard as a sophomore because he got so big. Back then, he had a 34-inch waist, 48-inch chest and 28-inch thighs.
“I could take a beer glass and squash it,” said Tom Morrison, who hopes to follow his son around next season via trains. “I’ve got some good doctors. They’re doing everything they can.”
Added Logan: “He said it was pretty surreal to see me on the field, which was really cool. It’s a really good feeling for me to give him that.”