Johnny Morrison

Johnny Morrison

Johnny Morrison

Jughandle Johnny
October 22, 1895
5' 11"
188 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-28-1920 with PIT

John Dewey "Jughandle Johnny" Morrison (October 22, 1895 - March 20, 1966) was a former professional baseball player. He was a right-handed pitcher over parts of ten seasons (1920–1927, 1929–1930) with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Brooklyn Robins. For his career, he compiled a 103-80 record in 297 appearances, with an 3.65 earned run average and 546 strikeouts. May was a member of the 1925 World Series champion Pirates, pitching three times during their seven game defeat of the Washington Senators. In World Series play, he recorded no decisions in 3 appearances, with an 2.89 earned run average and 7 strikeouts.

During the 1920’s one of the greatest decades in the history of the Pirate franchise, no pitcher won more games in a season than “Jughandle Johnny” Morrison and only Remy Kremer and Wilbur Cooper saw their name in the win column more often throughout the decade.  Morrison, however, proved not only to be a major league pitcher, but as his nickname suggests, a major difficulty for his managers once his drinking got the best of him.

Morrison won the first of his 89 victories for the team in 1920 and made the club to stay in 1921.  He tied seven other National Leaguers as moundsment worked on adapting to the livelier ball with three despite making only 17 starts and his 2.88 ERA further attested to his being a pitcher with a bright future.  While most of the Pirate pitchers slipped in 1922, Morrison continued his development by winning 17 games and recording five shutouts, again tying for the league lead, but this time only with Brooklyn star Dazzy Vance.

Morrison’s monster year was 1923.  Still only 27, he went 25-13, hurling 301 2/3 innings and 27 complete games.  Only the Reds’ Dolph Luque won more games and Morrison finished fourth in complete games and strikeouts as his 114 were an impressive total in an era when hitters still focused on making contact with the ball.

In 1924, Morrison slumped to 11-16.  Stories began to circulate that his drinking had increased and he was described as not taking his profession seriously enough.  He started less games, but Bill McKechnie used him in 41 contests, more than any pitcher in the NL.  Morrison continued to start and relieve in 1925 and he went 17-14 again leading the league in games pitched (44) and saves with a modest total of four.

In the World Series against Washington, Morrison relieved in Game 1 in the ninth, allowing the Senators final runs in a 4-1 loss.  He pitched well in long relief in Game 4, but Walter Johnson had a 4-0 lead by the time Johnny entered the game, which he would not relinquish.  McKechnie called on his most used reliever in the first inning of Game 7 after Vic Aldridge failed to get out of the initial frame.  Morrison settled the Washington down for a few innings to allow the Pirates a chance to get back into the contest before the Senators got to him for a couple of runs in the fourth.  Morrison became part of a World Championship when the Bucs rallied in the eighth, although the victory went to Ray Kremer.

By 1926, Morrison’s drinking was causing more problems for him and the club.  At one point, he jumped the team, then wired the club to say he was injured and as proof of his claim he submitted a medical report from a doctor in his hometown that stated the doctor had worked on the arm of a pitcher named Morrison.  When the Pirates contacted the doctor, he confirmed he had worked on Morrison’s arm, but it was Johnny’s brother, Carl, a minor league pitcher, for whom he had performed his services.  Later, Morrison told locals he was about to receive a check from the Pirates and be reinstated, but Barney Dreyfuss quickly denied this.

With Donie Bush managing and the club needing pitching for 1927, Morrison got another chance, but he again ended his season early.  In the middle of the year, Morrison, who had pitched fairly well for Bush in relief and spot starts, contacted his manager to say he had been injured in a fall and would be unable to pitch for a few days.  Bush, a man who set rules with stiff consequences for players who did not follow them, told Morrison he could take two days off.  When Morrison did not return to the team on time, Bush made it clear he would not in the future either.  Morrison was placed on the ineligible list and did not pitch in the majors until 1929, by which time Brooklyn owned his contract.  He performed well for the Robins as a reliever that year, but did not do very well in 1930, his last season in the majors.

Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia
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1925 World Series, Brooklyn Robins, Johnny Morrison, Pittsburgh Pirates, The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia
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