Morganna Roberts: Delivering the Kiss of Greatness – The Legend of the Kissing Bandit

Monday June 25th, 2012

Robert Whitmer (Baseball Writer):  

            There have been times in entertainment history when a kiss has not necessarily been a good thing.  In The Godfather II, Al Pacino gives the kiss of death to Fredo after he “breaks his heart.”  In the music video for “Father Figure” by George Michael, he proceeds to be slapped by the famous fashion designer after she gets upset the lowly taxi driver for trying to kiss her.  Then if you are a religious person of the Christian faith, then you would believe that an innocent kiss on the cheek from Judas is the sign that set Jesus apart from the disciples for arrest and trial by the Romans.  It is this event in history that gives the kiss on the cheek a bad rap.  Kissing can be a good thing though.  For the most part, none of you would be reading this article if kissing hadn’t happened (I’m not going any further to keep this a PG write-up).  We all know that infamous Time magazine photo of the couple kissing in the streets celebrating the end of World War 2.  Finally, who could ever forget the band KISS?  Yes that group that sang Dr. Love and many other good songs.  I bring them up solely for their name, but also to show that kissing is everywhere.  You can’t turn on the TV right now and not find kissing on it.  Movies are made 100% about kissing.  If you search the word “kiss” on IMDB it brings up 4,172 movies that have that word in them somehow and we aren’t talking the script.  When you bring up “kissing” and “baseball” you think of one person.  If you put those two words in the search box on Google the first two results are about Morganna Roberts: The kissing bandit.

            Morganna was born to a poor family in Louisville, Kentucky but enjoyed baseball growing up.  Her and her grandfather attended many baseball games of the local Louisville team.  At the age 6 she was abandoned by her mother and was sent to live with her grandmother.  This continued on until she was sent to a Catholic boarding school at age 13.  Realizing that she no longer wanted to be a nun, she ran away from school and hitched rides from Kentucky to Baltimore, MA.  She lived on the streets once she got there, eating where she could, but mostly out of garbage cans.  In her travels on the streets of Baltimore she happened across the Flamingo club that had a help wanted sign in the window.  After convincing the owner that she was 18, he decided that she would be better suited as an exotic dancer due to her rapidly increasing assets.  Her first appearance on stage she was quickly run off crying into the dressing room.  After watching the veterans, she got a handle on the business by mixing her act with a little dose of comedy.  She quickly became a headliner in her industry and her fame on the risqué side grew rapidly.  This, however, would not be the claim to her baseball fame.

            In 1971 a young and spry 17-year-old Morganna decided that she was going to attend a baseball game while in Cincinnati with a friend of hers.  In 1971 there was a certain player that played baseball for the Reds by the name of Pete Rose.  We all know Charlie Hustle as the great player that he was but also the man who bet on baseball while he was playing and managing the games, in 1971 though we just knew him as the perennial all-star and gold glove award winner.  This is how Morganna knew him but the rest is history and how she made a name for herself in the public spotlight.  The following is MY OPINION of how the conversation could have gone between the two girls.

Morganna:  “I’m going to go get another drink, do you want one?”

Friend: “Sure, grab me a coke.”

(20 minutes later due to the long lines at concession stands)

Morganna: “Here you go, what did I miss?”

Friend: “Not much.  Pete Rose made a good play though.”

Morganna: “He’s cute, don’t you think.”

Friend: “He sure is.  I dare you to run out there and kiss him when he is up to bat again.”

Morganna: “No…  I’m not doing that, I’ll get in trouble.”

Friend: “I dirty double dare you!”

Morganna: “DANG!  Fine”

            See where Morganna was from you just don’t turn down a dirty double dare.  Next time up, sure enough she ran out there in what came to be known as her signature outfit of skin-tight shirt and gym shorts and planted one right on the cheek of Rose.  She was quickly escorted off the field by security but not before Rose got in some choice expletives of his own.  Feeling bad for his response, he showed up the next day after finding out who she was and where she worked, with a dozen roses and an apology.  This only increased her resolve and she continued fence hopping and smooching players.  That is, until, we reach the point in her career that we will call “The Gravity Defense.”

            Gravity is a weird thing.  It has mystified people ever since the apple fell on Newton’s head.  Who would have thought that it would have been a viable defense in a court of law?  After being arrested and charged well over 20 times for trespassing there was this one time, in Texas, is where she got the better end of the legal system.  On a quick side note, have you ever noticed how a lot of your crazy stories happen in Texas?  Ok, anyways, Morganna fence hopped on to the AstroTurf (didn’t get injured surprisingly) and kissed a player.  She actually stood trial for this one as the city of Houston was determined to teach her a lesson (I’m sure it was about how they do things in Texas).  She must have hired the lawyer that taught Johnnie Cochran his law skills because he dropped the second best defense lines in the history of law, right behind the whole “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” line. Her lawyer actually told the judge that the reason Morganna fell onto the field was that she was leaning over the fence looking at a foul ball and that all of her 112 pound body couldn’t hold her 15 pound bosoms in the stands and gravity pulled her over.  While she was down there, since she would get kicked out anyways, decided to make the best of it and kiss a player.  In other words, gravity made her do it.  The judge laughed so hard at the clever defense tactic that he dismissed the case on the spot. 

            After deciding to give up on her attempts to defy gravity, she made numerous appearances on the Jay Leno and David Letterman shows.  She made many guest host appearances on local morning news shows in Columbus, Ohio.  She received and accepted at least three offers to pose for the Playboy magazine.  When asked how she met her long time husband she recounted that she met him at a baseball game after she received free tax advice from him.  She was quoted as saying “This man is saving you money. Better marry him!”  Six months later they were engaged and married.  Her last public appearance was 1996 in the movie “Kingpin” where she played herself.  She officially entered retirement in 1999 after being inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and is no longer doing any interviews.

            So lives the legend of the kissing bandit.  So it is written, so it shall stay.  There are ladies that the players call “cleat chasers.”  Those ladies that you see at every ball park that are willing to do almost anything to get behind the scene looks at the players.  This was not Morganna.  She didn’t wait for the players to select her, she selected her players.  She explained that the reason she kissed the players on the cheek was to not upset the wives of the players that she singled out.  Kisses on the cheek, to her, were a whole lot more innocent than the kisses on the lips.  In our post 9-11 world, I don’t think we will ever have another Morganna.  The security is too strict, and people are too paranoid.  If we had another person that had such repeated issues with gravity such as she did, people would start freaking out and baseball attendance would drop instead of rise.  We, as a people, have become such a society that doesn’t allow for Morganna.  It was just the right time and the right places.  Media was just enough to grow the legend but there wasn’t enough to make her a 15 minute YouTube sensation.  I can imagine that people went to games hoping to see her run on to the field, ducking and dodging security like Barry Sanders would duck and dodge the linebackers all for a little, sweet, innocent little peck on the cheek. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by Robert Whitmer, MLB reports Baseball Writer.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Robert on Twitter (@rwhitmer)***

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Posted on June 25, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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