Charles “Chip’’ Morton still is proud of having been named to Newsday’s All-Long Island basketball team 50 years ago, of having averaged 28.7 points and 22.0 rebounds for Cold Spring Harbor that season and of having been the referees’ choice for the most valuable player in Suffolk.
He takes even more pride in one other sports achievement. He never pushed his tall, athletic son to play basketball.
That allowed Charlie Morton to flourish as a baseball player and to ultimately impact the entire 2017 major-league season by winning Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees.
“What I really wanted to see was him make it to the big leagues,’’ Chip Morton said. “Everything after that is sort of gravy. I’m happy for him that he’s had some injuries that have been discouraging for him and to see him reach something close to his potential, that’s what’s gratifying.”
He spoke from his home in Charleston, South Carolina, this past week before flying to Houston, where Charlie started Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night.
Chip watched on TV as Charlie allowed two hits in five scoreless innings against the Yankees in ALCS Game 7. He allowed three hits in 6 1⁄3 innings and left with a 1-0 lead Saturday night.
Chip, 68, recalled being at home after school, watching the Yankees play the Cardinals in the 1964 Series, when friends knocked on his door, telling him he was being summoned to become a goalie by the soccer coach. That he was pressed into service on a team he hadn’t joined at a position he never had played spoke of the athletic gene he eventually would pass along to the righthanded pitcher who went 14-7 in 2017.
Back in 1967, in the Newsday story announcing that 6-5 Chip Morton had been chosen as one of the five best players on the Island, Cold Spring Harbor coach Phil Weber said, “I don’t think there’s a kid around anywhere near his size who can shoot with him.”
The second team included Bellport’s Randy Smith, who went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA.
Chip Morton was heavily recruited, but many schools cooled on him, he said, when word got around that he was planning on attending the Naval Academy. He changed his mind, mostly when he considered the heavy math requirements, and accepted a scholarship to Penn State. But when a new coaching staff came in, his playing time dwindled. So he transferred to Hobart.
He focused on his education and became a successful accountant, eventually passing along his facility with numbers to Charlie, an early baseball analytics aficionado. Father and son still text each other with data after the latter’s starts.
Both Chip and his then-wife were avid baseball fans, and that, too, caught on with Charlie. “I remember taking him to his first game when he was 8. He had his birthday party at Yankee Stadium,” Chip said. “He was a big Derek Jeter fan.”
The family lived for a while in baseball-crazy Trumbull, Connecticut, where Charlie’s youth league teammates included Craig Breslow and Jamie D’Antona, who both reached the majors. The Mortons eventually moved to Redding, Connecticut, which Chip described as more like Cold Spring Harbor, better known for soccer. Still, Charlie was discovered by a scout who was at a high school game to watch someone on the opposing team. That led to a career that, Chip said, still is evolving after 10 years.
Chip was in Boston and the Bronx to see Charlie pitch during the first two postseason rounds. He didn’t make it to Game 7. As Charlie said on the field at Minute Maid Park after that game, “We didn’t know I was going to pitch.” When he was asked how Chip felt about the whole experience, the Astros starter said, “He’s a dad . . . ”
The dad is among 30 relatives and friends in Houston for the Series. “Ten or 15 years from now, he and the others are going to be sitting around the table at Thanksgiving dinner, talking about this,” Chip said.
He knows that good sports memories tend to last. He has a purely positive vibe about Cold Spring Harbor even though, as he said, “Wally Szczerbiak broke all my records.”