This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 29th, Ed “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 in 1879. There are no stats available for that season, or his 1881-82 seasons that were spent mostly in San Francisco, although he played for the 1882 Philadelphia Phillies of the League Alliance. 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 or even approached. He went 39-24, 2.35 and had 63 starts, 63 complete games and 581 innings pitched. All three of the latter 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. That season was worth 13.3 WAR as a pitcher, and 12.7 overall, which is the highest single-season WAR in team history for any position and the 25th best season in baseball history.

While the 1885 season is impressive by any standards, his record was even better the following year. Morris went 41-20, 2.45 in 555.1 innings and led the league wins, plus set the team record in the process (breaking his own record set the previous year). He also set still-standing club records with 326 strikeouts and 12 shutouts. The latter stat also led the American Association. He started 63 games and completed all 63, despite repeating those same numbers from the previous year when he threw 25.2 more innings. The difference came from four games of 13+ innings in 1885, followed by five games in 1886 that didn’t go the full nine innings.

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. Pitchers were required that season to stand on the back line of the pitcher’s box, face the batter and not hide the ball before their delivery, which only allowed them one stride now. Before they could deliver from anywhere in the pitcher’s box and many pitchers would add deception by turning their back to the batters to help hide the ball. 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. The Pittsburgh front office claimed that he didn’t take care of himself properly and the new rules didn’t affect him as much as he thought because he would look strong early in games and fade late. He also dealt with a sore arm early in the year and was suspended and fined for heavy drinking one day in mid-May. At that same time, the Alleghenys were approached by Indianapolis manager Watch Burnham about trading for Morris, but apparently the asking price was too high. 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 the Philadelphia Phillies, 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, which was called a pitcher’s plate, but is basically the same thing as the modern pitching rubber. 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. In 1893 the box was removed and the pitcher’s plate was the only marker. 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.

His career started with a losing season in the minors in 1886 at 19 years old, despite being credited with an 0.76 ERA in 298 innings. The Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association looked past that 13-18 record and made him a regular starter in 1887, and he was a workhorse. He went 26-28, 4.27 in 466.1 innings as a rookie. He followed that up with a 26-18, 2.25 record in 404 innings. He led the league with 42 hit batters and 56 wild pitches. He was 30-21, 2.95 in 449 innings in 1889. In his first three seasons, he completed 148 of 155 starts. When the Player’s League came around in 1890, he made the jump to the new league just like many of the star players of the day. Weyhing put up his second straight 30-win season with the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders, going 30-16, 3.60 in 390 innings. When the Player’s League ceased to exist after just one season, he did what many players did, returned to their old team, except his team change was a bit different. The Athletics from his previous seasons were dropped from the American Association after the 1890 season and the Philadelphia club from the Player’s League took their place. So he was still with the Philadelphia Athletics in the American Association, it just wasn’t the same team. The change didn’t matter to Weyhing’s pitching, as he went 31-20, 3.18 in 450 innings, completing all 51 of his starts. He had a career high 219 strikeouts that season.

In 1892, the American Association closed up shop and Weyhing joined the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League. He reeled off his fourth straight 30+ win season, going 32-21, 2.66 in 469.2 innings. His workload dropped the next year with the pitching rule change, and his ERA rose sharply, as it did for many pitchers. He still went 23-16, but it came with a 4.74 ERA in 345.1 innings. His strikeouts went from 202 in 1892 down to 101 in 1893. In 1894, he went 16-14, 5.71 in 279 innings, with that ERA/record showing just how much the new rules helped offense. After his 1895 season covered above, he pitched briefly for Louisville in 1896, going 2-3, 6.64 in five starts. Weyhing played minor league ball for the rest of 1896 and all of 1897. He returned to the majors in 1898 with the Washington Senators and went 15-26, 4.51 in 361 innings. That was followed by a 17-21, 4.54 season in 334.2 innings. His career was basically over at that point, as in the 1900-01 seasons, he played for four different teams (St Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Superbas, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Blues) but pitched a total of 18 games. Weyhing finished with 4,337 innings pitched, which ranks 33rd all-time. He ranks 12th all-time with 449 complete games. His brother John Weyhing pitched in the majors during the 1889-90 seasons, but he passed away of tuberculosis at age 20 in 1890, exactly two months after his final big league game.

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, Shaw was sent to McKeesport of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League 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 obviously didn’t last long. He was on the reserve roster over the 1908-09 off-season, but the Pirates released him to Providence of the Eastern League on February 20, 1909. He went to Spring Training with the 1910 Chicago White Sox, but they released him on April 4, 1910 to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League. Shaw ended up playing seven seasons (1910-16) on the west coast. His real first name was Royal and his winter job at the time was as an undertaker. His obituary notes that he legally changed his name to Hunky because no one knew him by any other name. However, he was known as Royal Shaw during his time with the Pirates.

Paul Giel, pitcher for the 1960 Pirates. 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. 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 spread out over the 1958-60 seasons. He was a star football player in college at the University of Minnesota, who chose the pro baseball path. He debuted in the majors on July 10, 1954 and pitched six games in relief for the New York Giants, giving up four runs in 4.1 innings. In 1955 he went 4-4, 3.39 in 82.1 innings over 34 appearances, two as a starter. After his two years in the military, he returned to the Giants as they moved to San Francisco for the 1958 season. He went 4-5, 4.70 in 92 innings that season, with nine starts and 20 relief appearances.

The Pirates acquired Giel as a waiver pickup from the San Francisco Giants just prior to the 1959 season. He played parts of two years for the Pirates (1959-60) and threw 40.2 innings over 20 relief appearances. He had a 7.30 ERA during that time, though he did substantially better in 1960. Most of 1959 was spent with Columbus of the International League, where he had a 4.75 ERA in 91 innings, split between 11 starts and 11 relief appearances. Giel allowed 12 runs and had a 3.00 WHIP in his 7.2 innings with the Pirates during the 1959 season, then followed it up by posting a 5.73 ERA in 33 innings over 16 appearances in 1960. His last game with the Pirates that season came on July 8th, so he wasn’t around for the World Series. The rest of his season was spent with Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League. Giel was sold to the expansion Minnesota Twins prior to the 1961 season. He struggled there, posting a 9.78 ERA in 19.1 innings over 12 games. He was traded to the Kansas City A’s mid-season and pitched one game there, then retired the next day after giving up seven runs in 1.2 innings. In his big league career, he had an 11-9, 5.39 record in 240.1 innings over 11 starts and 91 relief appearances.

Ken Macha, utility player for the 1974 and 1977-78 Pirates. 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 debuted in pro ball with Salem of the Carolina League (A-Ball), where he hit .254 with eight homers and 33 RBIs in 62 games. He moved up to Double-A Sherbrooke of the Eastern League in 1973, where he hit .267 with 12 homers and 52 RBIs in 106 games. The next year was mostly spent back in the Eastern League with a team from Thetford Mines. Macha hit .345 with 21 doubles, 22 homers, 100 RBIs and 22 steals in 117 games. He played 21 games in Triple-A that year, hitting just .185 with two homers. The Pirates gave him a look in September and he went 3-for-5 at the plate in five games. He spent the 1975-76 seasons with Charleston of the Triple-A International League. Macha hit .268 with 21 doubles and 14 homers in 138 games in 1975. He followed that up with a .301 average in 1976, with 29 doubles, 14 homers and 77 RBIs in 126 games.

The 1977-78 seasons were split between Triple-A and the majors, with Macha seeing his most playing time with the Pirates in 1977, when he hit .274 in 35 games, seeing time at all four corner positions. He batted .212 with five RBIs in 29 games in 1978. In three seasons with the Pirates, he played five different positions, hitting .263 in 152 at-bats over 69 games.  The Pirates lost him to the Montreal Expos in the 1978 Rule 5 draft. Macha split the 1979 season between Triple-A and the majors. He saw limited use with the Expos, batting 40 times in 25 games, with a .278 average. In 1980, he hit .290 with one homer and eight RBIs in 120 plate appearances spread over 49 games. He was purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays in January of 1981 and he batted .200, with a .489 OPS in 37 games during the strike-shortened season. After the season, he signed to play in Japan, where he spent his final four years of pro ball. Macha hit .258 with one homer and 35 RBIs in 180 big league games over six seasons. Despite hitting just one big league homer, he hit a total of 172 homers in pro ball. After his playing days, he managed for six seasons in the majors and four years in the minors. He had a 368-280 record split between the 2003-06 Oakland A’s and the 2009-10 Milwaukee Brewers. He had two first place finishes, twice finished second and two times finished third. Macha is the cousin of Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser.

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