Samuel “Doc” Morton, 76, of Newport News, Virginia
Bowlers at the National Senior Games in Cleveland last year may have admired one athlete with a different approach. Samuel “Doc” Morton, 76, of Newport News, Virginia, took on all comers from a wheelchair. However, none would have guessed what a gifted athlete and true hero was in their midst.
Sam always excelled at every sport. He played “Bowling for Dollars” in Madison Square Garden at age 17. He was a high school All American football tight end, but his real love was baseball. ”The Dodgers tried to sign me but I wanted them to pay for my college. They said no deal so I took a football scholarship to Syracuse University,” he recalls. The next year the New York (now San Francisco) Giants met his terms and Sam played third base in the summers, getting called up to the major league three times. “But I got hurt sliding into second base and tried to come back too soon. That finished me out.”
His draft notice came in 1960. “I had documentation to get out of it but decided to do what I had to do for my country.” Two tours of duty in Vietnam followed, and one fateful “Black Ops” mission changed his life. “The helicopter pilot missed the drop zone by 20 miles. Five troopers got injured that shouldn’t have, and I took the brunt of it.” The injuries made a wheelchair his lifetime companion.
Unbeaten, he completed a PhD in Special Education with an emphasis on autism. “Doc” Morton continued with sports, picking up numerous medals in bowling, horseshoes, shuffleboard, basketball, golf, wheelchair racing and field events. He was proud to throw javelin, discus and shot put for Team USA in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta.
Sam has been a regular in American Wheelchair Bowling Association events and has bowled against able bodied competitors in five National Senior Games. He and his wife Kathy will be at the Virginia state games in May to qualify for the 2015 National Senior Games Presented by Humana. When told that The Games will be adding non-ambulatory bowling next year, the response was predictable.”Hey, I don’t care who’s out there. I’ll take ’em all on.”
While Sam has triumphed in a wheelchair, it has not been his toughest challenge. Exposure to Agent Orange has dealt him strikes with diabetes, hypertension and fluctuating eyesight. A recent renal failure placed him on dialysis three times a week. However, Sam Morton has never given up and never will.
“You walk upright with God, and He will take you through everything you have to go through. But you have to believe in Him and believe in yourself as well as the people who support you. You have to live each day to its fullest because you never know when He will call you home.”