This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 29th, Cannonball Morris

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including a pitcher who is the single-season leader in many pitching categories.

Ed Morris, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from 1885 until 1889. If you look at Pittsburgh Pirates franchise single-season marks, you will find the name Ed Morris atop many lists. He is the single-season leader in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, shutouts, games started and complete games. He accomplished something unfathomable by today’s standards. In his five seasons with Pittsburgh, he completed 235 out of 240 starts. Morris began his career playing in California as a 16-year-old in the Pacific League. He attended college out west prior to pitching for Reading of the Interstate Association in 1883, where he put himself on the baseball map with a 16-6, 1.80 season. The following season, Morris signed with Columbus of the American Association, where the left-hander nicknamed Cannonball, had an amazing rookie season. He went 34-13, 2.18 and struck out 302 batters in 429.2 innings pitched. Following the season, Columbus folded and the Pittsburgh Alleghenys bought most of their roster, in the process overhauling their own team.

In 1885, Morris set some still-standing team records that will never be broken. He went 39-24, 2.35 and had 63 starts, 63 complete games and 581 innings pitched. All three stats are tops on the Pirates franchise single-season lists. He also led the league in all three of those categories, as well as shutouts with seven and strikeouts with 298. We posted an in depth Pittsburgh Pirates Seasons article, covering his 1885 campaign.

While the 1885 season is impressive by any standards, he was even better the following year. Morris went 41-20, 2.45 and led the league wins, plus set the team record in the process (breaking his own record set the previous year). He also set club records with 326 strikeouts and 12 shutouts. The latter stat also led the American Association. The 1887 season was a tough one for Morris, whether it was overwork or the National League rule about moving around in the pitcher’s box (see more below in the next bio). Morris went 14-22, 4.31 and saw his strikeouts drop down to 91 in 317.2 innings. He was briefly suspended during the season because he was protesting the rule change that hindered his ability and he refused to pitch a game. During July, the Alleghenys tried to sell him to the New York Giants, but when the move was announced, it was so unpopular with the fans that the deal was nixed by Pittsburgh.

In 1888, Morris bounced back and had a fine season, going 29-23, 2.31 and he completed 54 of his 55 starts. He pitched 480 innings, finishing just behind the league leader, Hall of Famer John Clarkson. The 1889 season turned out to be a disaster for Morris, who was able to make just 21 starts. That spelled the end of his Alleghenys career, because the next season he followed most of his teammates to the newly formed Player’s League, where he played for the Pittsburgh Burghers. Morris was even worse in 1890, going 8-7, 4.86 in 15 starts and three relief appearances. He was released mid-season and didn’t pitch again. That year ended up being his last season in baseball, though he did umpire a couple of games in the mid-1890’s. Morris finished with a career record of 171-122, 2.82 in 307 starts and four relief appearances. While with the Alleghenys, he went 129-102, 2.81 in 2,104 innings. He ranks ninth all-time in franchise history in wins, eighth in innings pitched and eighth with 890 strikeouts. He’s also third in complete games and seventh in shutouts.

Gus Weyhing, pitcher for the 1895 Pirates. Weyhing pitched his only game with the Pirates on May 21, 1895, beating the Washington Nationals that day. He had a tough time that 1895 season, pitching twice for Philadelphia, once for the Pirates, then 28 times for the Louisville Colonels, compiling an 8-21, 5.81 record. He had a 20.00 ERA in two starts for the Phillies prior to joining the Pirates, and he allowed seven runs in his only game with Pittsburgh(though just one was earned). His offense helped him to victory with ten runs. Weyhing was released immediately after his start by manager Connie Mack, much to the displeasure of fans who thought he pitched well that day.

He was one of the numerous pitchers who was hurt by the new rules for them that started in 1893, including the new pitching distance and the fact the pitchers now had to throw from one spot. Prior to the new rule, they could pitch from anywhere inside a pitcher’s box laid out in chalk on the ground. There was no mound at that time. The distance added wasn’t as big at it appears, with it going from 50 feet to 60 feet six inches. The pitchers had to be within the box before when they released the ball and the distance was measured from the front of the box to the middle of the plate. The new distance was measured to the back of the plate and they started at 60’6″ away from that point before striding towards the plate. While it looks like they just added ten feet to the total, the real addition was much smaller once you factor in the stride and the plate difference.

Weyhing was a great pitcher prior to the change, posting a 200-140, 3.34 record by age 26, through the 1893 season. After the new rules went into effect, he had a 64-92, 5.07 record, so they likely cost him 300 wins and a place in the Hall of Fame. Weyhing won at least 23 games in each of his first seven seasons, running off four straight 30-win seasons from 1889 to 1892. He ranks 40th all-time in wins, 33rd in innings pitched, 12th in complete games and no one in baseball history has hit more batters. With 277 total hit batters, he has 58 more than the next highest total. No active player is halfway to his total, so that record will stand for a while..

Hunky Shaw, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on May 16, 1908. Shaw played just one game for the Pirates and it came as a pinch-hitter for Sam Leever, after he allowed four runs in the first three innings. Shaw batted in the bottom of the third inning and struck out. That was his only big league appearance. The write-up for the game talked more about what he did before the game started. Shaw gave an acrobatics exhibition for the crowd, which had to wait around due to a rain delay prior to first pitch. He played a total of 14 years in the minors, though they weren’t consecutive. He debuted in 1904 and played his final game 20 years later. The Pirates acquired him after he hit .278 with 41 extra-base hits in 150 games for Tacoma of the Northwestern League in 1908. He was a Rule 5 selection, taken from St Paul of the American Association though he did not play for the team.

The Pirates wanted to purchase Shaw from Tacoma and even agreed to a deal for $1,500 to purchase him. Tacoma backed out and sent him to St Paul, where they thought he would escape the Rule 5 draft, but the Pirates selected him for a cost of $1,000, saving money from their original offer. After his one game in the majors, he was sent to McKeesport first, then to Jersey City of the Eastern League, where he hit .236 in 59 games. Before that McKeesport assignment, he actually umpired a local amateur game. It was said that Shaw didn’t play hard in McKeesport and they were quick to get rid of him. Shaw was said to be a good batter with an average glove, but in Spring Training in 1908, he impressed more with the mitt. He missed time with tonsillitis, so the Pirates didn’t get a full look at him. He still made the team as a utility fielder, but his stay didn’t last long. His real first name was Royal and his winter job was as an undertaker.

Paul Giel, pitcher for the 1960 World Series champs. Giel played two years for the Pirates (1959-60) and threw 40.2 innings over 20 relief appearances. He had a 7.30 ERA, though he did substantially better in 1960, posting a 5.73 ERA in 33 innings over 16 appearances. Giel allowed 12 runs and had a 3.00 WHIP in his 7.2 innings during the 1959 season. He played parts of six seasons in the majors, while taking two years (1956-57) off in the middle of his career to serve in the military. The Pirates acquired him as a waiver pickup from the San Francisco Giants just prior to the 1959 season. He was sold to the expansion Minnesota Twins prior to the 1961 season. He was traded to the Kansas City A’s mid-season and pitched one game there, then retired the next day. Giel made his pro debut in the majors out of the University of Minnesota, and he finished his career seven years later in the majors, playing a total of just 41 minor league games. He was a star football player in college.

Ken Macha, utility player for the 1974 and 1977-78 Pirates. He played five different positions over his 69 games with the Pirates, hitting .263 in 152 at-bats. He saw his most playing time in 1977, when he hit .274 in 35 games, seeing time at all four corner positions. Macha was a sixth round pick of the Pirates out of the University of Pitt in 1972. They drafted him as a catcher, but he ended up playing just four Major League games behind the plate. In fact, he played just one game at catcher in each of four different seasons, while playing a total of six innings in those games. He played six seasons in the majors, also seeing time with the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. He played four years in Japan after his last game with the Blue Jays. The Pirates lost him to the Expos in the 1978 Rule 5 draft. After his playing days, he managed for six seasons in the majors and four years in the minors.