Jan 25, 2008

From the archives: Morganna the Kissing Bandit retires

Here's an article from 2001 that appeared on seattlepi.com:
"Morganna the Kissing Bandit," who for more than two decades became baseball's unofficial mascot by jumping onto fields and bussing unsuspecting players -- including George Brett at the 1979 All-Star Game in the Kingdome -- has kissed the game goodbye.

"Three or four months ago, she called me up and said, 'I'm retiring,'" her Tulsa-based agent Jon Terry said. "I have no information on why it was so abrupt, as she was someone who obviously loved attention.

"I don't if she thought she was too old or if it was a health problem. But she was as vivacious as ever. She's the grand dame of baseball."


An overly buxom woman who used to dress in hot pants and a tight shirt for her madcap dashes, Morganna is 47 now. She's no spring -- or San Diego -- chicken.

And, face it, she's been doing her player smooching in the minors for much of the past decade.

"She was greeted with a polite response from the 1,300 in the stands," a Charleston, W.Va., columnist wrote recently of a Morganna visit.

A Kentucky native, Morganna was 17 when she attended a 1971 Cincinnati Reds game and a friend dared her to run out on the field at Riverfront Stadium and give Pete Rose a kiss. Rose swore at her for the intrusion, then called her and apologized the next day.

It was the first of nearly two dozen big-league baseball kisses and one of hundreds involving entertainers and other athletes for Morganna, who realized the value of publicity. A Cincinnati sportswriter dubbed her the Kissing Bandit. It was a life of crime she could handle.

Either invited or uninvited, Morganna tried to plant a kiss on someone in each ballpark nationwide. Among her victims were Cal Ripken, Johnny Bench, Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly and Nolan Ryan. Brett got kissed twice. Her Mariners choice for a wet one was former catcher Steve Yeager.

At the '79 All-Star game, Morganna waited seven batters before bounding onto the Kingdome field in the first inning and sprinting for Brett. He got a hug and a kiss. The Mariners were said to have paid for this moment, according to one source.

"Definitely not for the All-Star Game," said Randy Adamack, Mariners vice president with the club since 1978. "We might have done it a few years later, maybe air fare."

In 1986, Morganna showed up in Seattle during the first week of the season and targeted Yeager. A notorious tobacco-chewer, the catcher received only a peck on the cheek. The visit was strategic.

"I told my fans I was going to New York after Mattingly, but their security was ready for me, so I thought I'd surprise everybody," Morganna told the P-I's Art Thiel in a Kingdome security office that night. "I had been planning to kiss Yeager for quite a while. Fans kept suggesting him. I had a break in my schedule and this looked like a good time."

Along the way, Morganna became an exotic dancer, working regularly in Las Vegas, Houston and Oklahoma City. It was good money, sometimes $7,000 to $10,000 per week. In 1985, Morganna was even brought to Tacoma to highlight the grand opening of a local club, Night Moves. She danced topless, signed T-shirts and drew a huge crowd.


She often signed her autographs "With breast wishes, Morganna."

Her kissing vocation was not all laughs and giggles. She was arrested and charged with trespassing nearly 20 times, often spending 12 to 14 hours in jail and paying a $100 fine.

You can read more about Morganna on SRO Productions' "Hall of Fame" page, including a little more background onto why she retired. In short -- the world changed, and teams became more concerned with security.

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