Johnny Morrison, also known as Jughandle Johnny, was born on October 22nd, 1895 in Pellville, KY. The right-handed pitcher made his first professional appearance at the age of 19, between the 1915 Anniston Moulders of the “D” level Georgia-Alabama League (2-3) and the Mobile Sea Gulls, of the “A” level Southern Association (0-2 in four games). He followed that up in 1916 by spending the whole season in Anniston, compiling a 3-11 record with a 2.10 ERA, a 1.113 WHIP, and only 7.8 hits allowed per nine innings pitched.
1917 would see Morrison split the season between the Hanover Raiders in the “D” level Blue Ridge League (1-4 over nine games) and Anniston (2-0 in three contests). After taking a season off in 1918, he returned to pro baseball in 1919 with the Birmingham Barons in the Southern Association (12-15, 3.00). He seemed to turn a corner in 1920, racking up a 26-13 record, a 1.006 WHIP, and 7.0 hits allowed per nine for Birmingham. He also made his first major league appearance in September, striking out one in one inning of relief work on September 28th in game two of a doubleheader, a 5-3 Pirates loss to the Cincinnati Reds. A week later, in the third game of a tripleheader on October 2nd, he tossed a shutout in his first career start, allowing four hits and striking out two in a six-inning, 6-0 win over the Reds.
Morrison joined the rotation midway through the 1921 season, eventually collecting a 9-7 record with a 2.88 ERA, a 1.139 WHIP, and 8.2 hits allowed per nine. More impressively considering he only played half the season, he led the NL with three shutouts. His best start of the year was probably August 28th, when he tossed a three hit shutout, allowing no walks in a 2-0 decision over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pittsburgh went 90-63, finishing the year second in the NL just four games behind the New York Giants.
Morrison had an even better season in 1922. He again led the NL in shutouts, this time with five, also ranking amongst the league leaders with a 3.43 ERA (eighth), 17 wins (eighth), 3.269 K/9 (ninth), 45 games played (fifth), 286.1 innings pitched (third), 104 strikeouts (fourth), 20 complete games (fourth), and 33 rotation starts (seventh). He was the number two starter for the Pirates. In his second game of the season, on April 17th against the Reds, he threw a 1-0 four-hit shutout, striking out four. He threw another four-hitter on July 21st, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 6-0 in the process. Pittsburgh was 85-69, tied for third in the NL and eight games behind the New York Giants for the pennant.
In 1923, Morrison enjoyed what may have been his best season. He went 25-13 (a career high and NL second in wins) with a 3.49 ERA, completing 27 (NL third) of his 37 (NL third) starts. He also ranked highly with a .658 win percentage (fourth), a 1.316 WHIP (10th), an 8.562 H/9 (third), a 3.401 K/9 (fifth), 42 games played (sixth), 301.2 innings pitched (sixth), and 114 strikeouts (fourth). On September 8th, he threw his first career two-hitter, striking out three and beating the Chicago Cubs, 4-0. Just two weeks later on September 26th, he struck out six and allowed only one hit in a 6-0 win over the Phillies. Led by Morrison’s 25 wins, the Pirates finished 87-67, placing third in the NL 8.5 games behind the Giants.
1924 would see Morrison post his first losing record at the major league level, going 11-16 with a 1.203 WHIP (NL sixth) and a 3.75 ERA. He led the league in appearances with 41, dropping his H/9 to a career best 8.066 (NL third). He was Pittsburgh’s opening day starter. On April 30th, he went the distance in a 14-inning marathon, beating the Cubs 2-1 while allowing seven hits and striking out four. The Pirates were 90-63, three games behind the Giants for the pennant.
In 1925, Pittsburgh won the NL pennant by 8.5 games over the Giants with a 95-58 record. Morrison’s record improved to 17-14 with a 3.58 ERA as he again led the league in appearances, with 44. He also led the NL with four saves. He struck out seven and allowed only one unearned run in a 7-1 victory over the Boston Braves on May 14th, allowing five hits in the process. Morrison appeared in three games in the World Series against the Washington Senators, all in relief. He struck out seven and allowed 11 hits over 9.1 innings as the Pirates procured their second world championship and first since 1909 in seven games.
In 1926, Morrison went 6-8, finishing six of his 13 starts with a 3.38 ERA. He posted his second career two hitter on April 27th, blanking the Cubs 2-0. He missed most of the middle third of the season with an injury. The Pirates missed the pennant by 4.5 games to the St. Louis Cardinals with an 84-69 record.
Morrison went 3-2 in 1927, his last season with the Pirates. He appeared mostly in relief, only starting twice and racking up three saves. Pittsburgh qualified for their second Fall Classic in three years, winning the NL by 1.5 games over the Giants at 94-60. Morrison did not make an appearance as the Bucs were swept in four games by the New York Yankees.
In 1928, Morrison spent the season with the Kansas City Blues, an “AA” level team in the American Association, going 1-6 with a 4.55 ERA. He returned to the majors in 1929 with the Brooklyn Robins, posting a 14-9 record with a 4.68 ERA over the next two seasons.
All-Time Statline: Eight seasons, 89-71, 3.52 ERA, 242 games, 154 starts, 86 CG, 13 shutouts, 14 saves, 1363.2 innings pitched, 1377 hits allowed, walked 429, struck out 478, 1.295 WHIP, 17.5 wins above replacement.