Joe Morgan puts the same energy into his dealership that he put into his other careers.

You know Joe Morgan the Baseball Star. A major cog in the Big Red Machine of the 1970s. Two-time National League MVP. Eight straight All-Star Game appearances in the '70s. Hall of Fame inductee in 1990.

You know Joe Morgan the Broadcaster. The Reds, Giants, A's, ABC, NBC, ESPN. He was there Sept. 11, 1985, when his good friend Pete Rose singled for hit No. 4,192, breaking Ty Cobb's all-time record.

Now meet Joe Morgan the Businessman.

Tens of thousands of motorists pass Exit 29 on Interstate 75 at Monroe every day, and if they look to the west, they see the Joe Morgan Honda dealership.

Many don't realize that it's THE Joe Morgan.

"It's amazing, sometimes, when I come in here "” usually Saturday mornings, all of the people are here early, we open at 7 for service "” and you've got tons of people here who want to get their car serviced and get out of here for the day," Morgan says. "And I'll come in and introduce myself, 'cause I talk to all of the customers to get their feedback, and they're shocked, and will say, "¢You're THE Joe Morgan?' Yeah, I'm that guy."

Morgan opened his auto dealership in December 2010, not the best of economic times. But he says it's doing well.

"Our sales are up. They've been going up since we opened," he says. (He politely declines to divulge the number of vehicles sold or even the percentage of increase, preferring to keep his business private.)

"The one negative is that I'm a new location; there wasn't anything here before. The great thing is that when you pass on I-75 every day, you see the Joe Morgan Honda sign. It took time for people to know that I was here. I thought we'd be at this point five or six months ago. Everything is really good, but I thought we'd be there a little sooner. I'm pleased with what has happened, but as any businessperson, you're never satisfied. You can't be because then you get complacent.

"One thing I'm most proud of is our customer service index is very high. The people who come here go away very pleased, not just pleased. I get comments all around, at the ballpark, every place I go, about how nice my staff treated them. That's a priority of mine."

Customer comes first

Morgan, who turned 69 in September, has been here before. He's a competitor "” when he was on the field and now off. He has owned several Wendy's restaurants and a Coors beer distributorship. He learned a lot about business from those experiences and his golfing buddies, some of whom are auto dealers themselves.

"Everything I've done has been customer service-oriented," he says. "I told my staff that when you're hired here, you represent Joe Morgan as well because whatever happens here is a reflection on me.

"I went to automobile dealer school for six months or so. I learned to be a manager. I went to NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) "” they train people to be managers, general managers. I wasn't going to be a general manager, but I wanted to know everything. I wanted to be able to see something if it's not in place, but I don't micromanage."

Morgan is majority owner in the Honda dealership, and John Voss, who operates dealerships in Dayton, is his partner and confidant. Voss has been Morgan's friend since he came to Cincinnati 40 years ago to play for the Reds.

"I was on the West Coast doing things, and he was here doing things," Morgan says. "I went to school, and this opportunity became available, and John and I applied for it. It took us 1½ to 2 years before we finally got it."

He looks back on his Wendy's franchises as a great learning experience.

"That was a great thing for me because you hire young kids. The thing I was doing was helping teach them responsibility "” you have to be here, for instance "” and I would clean the tables and do anything I asked them to do. I think they respected that, and in turn, I was teaching them discipline and responsibility."

Morgan was born in Texas, then moved as a youngster to the Oakland, Calif., area, the eldest of six kids. He didn't play organized baseball until he was about 14, he says, first in the Young America league, then the Babe Ruth League. He was loyal to his friends.

"I didn't play Little League, and the reason for that was because on the block where I lived, there were two other guys who loved baseball," he says. "We'd go to the park and play all day every day. And the problem was when the Little Leaguers would come along, (his friends) weren't good enough to make the team. And I wasn't going to leave them, because we were friends. I continued to play with them."

It's evident in talking with Morgan, a Baptist, that he values values. He believes in integrity, and it's important to him whether he's playing baseball or doing business.

"My responsibility came from my parents (Leonard and Ollie). I had the greatest parents in the world. They taught me responsibility, discipline and how I'm supposed to carry the Morgan name."

He says he never gets tired of people coming up to say hello.

"My dad taught me once, when we were in the presence of a celebrity, I can't remember who it was, he said, "¢I want you to remember one thing: He puts his pants on the same way you do, and if you become a star, you remember, you put yours on the same way they do.' So I've always remembered that."

Put College on Hold

He started the path to the major leagues in 1963 when he signed a minor-league contract with the Houston Colt 45s (later the Astros) for $500 a month and a $3,000 signing bonus. But it almost didn't happen.

"When I got ready to sign, my mom didn't want me to sign," he says. "She wanted me to continue my education "” I was going to college. And my dad and I had to beg her because when you're 19, both parents have to sign. And I promised my mom I'd get my college degree. Luckily, I didn't tell her how long it was going to take. It took me 30 years, but I got it, and she was as proud when I got it as she would've been if I had just stayed in school because I upheld that promise."

His father died a few years ago, and he regularly talks with his mother, who still lives in the Bay Area, where Morgan and his wife, Theresa, live. His twin daughters, Ashley and Kelly, attend Stanford and Southern Cal. He has two daughters from his first marriage to Gloria; Angela is a lawyer, and Lisa is a makeup artist in Los Angeles and for ESPN.

Baseball still runs in his blood. He became a senior adviser to Reds executives three years ago and regularly interacts with the players. Although he lives in Danville, Calif., he's here whenever the Reds are in town, staying at a downtown hotel. In the offseason, he comes here regularly to tend to his business and stay closer to the dealership.

"I love baseball, and I love the Reds," he says. "My affinity for Cincinnati and the Reds far outweighs anything else. That's why I'm back here. I tell people that I left, but my heart stayed here. It was great for me to come back here and be a part of the organization again."

Morgan is full of stories and talks easily. He's in regular contact with many of his Big Red Machine colleagues, including Johnny Bench and George Foster. He and Rose are tight; just two nights before this interview, Rose attended a dinner that Morgan put on for his customers. He has many people he considers friends "” some famous, some not "” even his old high school buddies. He has not let success go to his head.

A former Reds teammate once told him that he didn't have many friends from high school. "He said he hadn't changed, but their perception of him had" because of his star status, Morgan says. But Morgan's old friends "still look at me as Joe, the guy they grew up with and the guy they hung out with. I like that because you know they like you for who you are."

In addition to being a sports fan and a businessman, Morgan says his three hobbies are playing golf, listening to music and watching videos. He says he can sit for hours in his house listening to jazz or watching movies.

"You know what I do a lot of times, I'll go later today over to Best Buy to buy some videos or whatever, and walk around, and people will say hi, and I'll say hi. I enjoy a lot of little things."

Every now and then, "a father and a son are together, and the son will say, "¢That's Joe Morgan, he was on TV doing baseball,' and the dad will say, "¢No, that's Joe Morgan the baseball player.' The younger people recognize me as a broadcaster, and the older people recognize me as a player."

Will he ever retire? Don't bet on it.

"I'm having a great time, but every once in a while, when I have to get ready to get on a plane, I start thinking about it," he says. "And then my wife says, "¢Well you enjoy what you do, don't you?' And then I smile and say, "¢OK.' And that's a fact."