Guy Morrison was a four-sport athlete with plenty of energy and drive. He excelled in college and on the pitching mound in the 1920s for minor-league teams, mostly in the Midwest in the Three-I League. After years of minor-league mound dominance, which he accomplished while coaching high-school and college sports on the side, Morrison finally made it to the major leagues with the 1927-28 Boston Braves at the age of 31. His major-league career was brief: On the mound he accomplished one win; at bat he accomplished one hit. He then went back to the minors and coaching. When he received a devastating medical diagnosis, he took his own life at the age of 38.
Walter Guy Morrison was born August 29, 1895, in Hinton, West Virginia, to Moffett and Jeanetta (Neff) Morrison. Moffett worked as a lumber inspector and the couple had three children at the 1910 census: Charley, Grace, and Guy. In 1910 they were living in the town of Beckley in southern West Virginia. Morrison attended grammar school there and did college prep work at the Beckley Institute. He enrolled at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon and graduated in 1917 with a bachelor of arts degree. Morrison was a four-sport athlete while in college: baseball, football, basketball, and track. He was an all-state defensive end in football and an all-state guard in basketball, and won the West Virginia Intercollegiate 100- and 400-yard dashes. He was a top pitcher in baseball and was a teammate of Earl “Greasy” Neale, who had an eight-year major-league career as well as a professional football career that led him to one day coach the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL and be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Morrison served as an artillery lieutenant during World War I, and when he returned he briefly played independent baseball, then signed a contract in 1919 with the Evansville club of the Three-I League. He was traded in July to Moline in the same league and finished with a 3.67 ERA in 25 games, while a later article credited him with a 14-14 record.1 He returned to Evansville in 1920 and racked up a 17-7 record with a 2.36 ERA in 26 games. He also became a coach in the athletic program at Bloomington (Illinois) High School that fall.2 He continued pitching at Evansville in 1921 and compiled a strong 16-8 record with a 3.23 ERA in 32 games, even more impressive considering he didn’t pitch on Saturdays in the fall when he was coaching football. Since commuting didn’t make sense, Morrison announced his wishes to be traded to Bloomington to make his tasks of pitching and coaching easier.3 That’s where he would spend 1922, but not before he helped Bloomington High win the county basketball tournament.4
Morrison’s pitching was outstanding for his new team in 1922: 19-15 with a 2.28 ERA in 41 games. He pitched shutouts on July 1, 4, 13, and 19, and lost 1-0 on July 9, to earn the reputation as an “iron man.” Rumors circulated of major-league scouts taking interest.5 Despite his hectic pace, Morrison found time to get married on August 9 to Blanche Lindsey, a secretary at Bloomington High School. The couple were “numbered among Bloomington’s most popular young folks,” The Pantagraph celebrated.6 Imagine the shock Bloomington fans had when they picked up the newspaper on November 2 and read, “Guy Morrison Sold to New York Giants.” Morrison resigned his athletic position to join the world champions for spring training in Texas.
But impressing legendary manager John McGraw and earning a spot on the pitching staff was a tough task, and Morrison was assigned to San Antonio of the Texas League with an option to recall if needed. “Lack of a good curveball of major league proportions was all that kept the handsome West Virginia Wesleyan alumnus from sticking with the McGraw forces,” wrote H. Lee Watson in the Decatur (Illinois) Herald.7 He finished 13-17 (3.75) in 41 games and never received an invitation to New York. Instead, he secured a position as athletic director and coach at a San Antonio high school.8 That position was only temporary, however, as Morrison was sent back to Bloomington for 1924.
In 24 games that season, Morrison was still dominant with a 2.72 ERA despite a 10-9 record. He also became assistant athletic director and baseball coach at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.9 He was also sold to Decatur of the Three-I League. He was traded in the offseason to Quincy (Illinois) but refused to report. Instead, he purchased his release from the club in June to become a free agent.10 He signed with Idaho Falls of the Utah-Idaho League, where he had a stellar 1926 season (17-4) that helped the team win the pennant. He returned to DePauw in the fall but was soon on the move again.
Columbia of the South Atlantic League drafted Morrison away from Idaho Falls and then allowed the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire him, giving Morrison another shot at the major leagues.11 But the Pirates sold him during spring training to Shreveport of the Texas League.12 However, Morrison was soon acquired by Waterbury (Connecticut) of the Eastern League. Morrison went 16-7 with a 2.43 ERA in 33 games. That was enough for the nearby Boston Braves to take notice and purchase him from Waterbury at the end of August. Guy had finally made it onto a major-league roster at the age of 31.13
Morrison made his major-league debut on August 31 at Braves Field in the ninth inning with the Braves trailing Cincinnati, 1-0. “Guy Morrison, the husky right-hander brought from Waterbury, worked the last inning,” wrote James C. O’Leary in the Boston Globe. “He looked pretty good. Although two hits were registered against him, one of them was a scratch.”14 The Reds secured the shutout.
Morrison pitched in eight games out of the bullpen for the Braves, mostly in middle relief. He fared well, throwing 18 innings and compiling a 2.50 ERA, but was wild with seven walks to only one strikeout. He pitched poorly, however, in the three games he started for manager Dave Bancroft. He couldn’t get out of the third inning in the second game of a doubleheader on September 5 against the New York Giants, walking three and allowing two earned runs. His next start, at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, was much better. The Braves jumped on the board with four runs in the first, knocking out starter Lefty Weinert, who lasted two-thirds of an inning and was replaced by Percy Jones. The Cubs got two back in the first after an error and a home run to deep right by Cliff Heathcoate. But in the top of the second, Morrison led off with the only hit of his career, another deep shot into the right-field seats to give the Braves a 5-2 lead. As of 2020 Morrison was one of 23 major-leaguers whose lone hit was a home run.15
The Cubs tied the score, 5-5, in the bottom of the second with three runs, two of them unearned on two Braves errors and three hits. Jones and Morrison barred further scoring until the Cubs got a run in the seventh and two in the eighth (one unearned). Morrison pitched the complete game, allowing only four earned runs but 13 hits. He fared poorly in his last start, surrendering six earned runs in six innings at St. Louis. He finished the season pitching two innings of relief in the second game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia on October 1, and picked up his only career win when the Braves scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth for an 8-6 victory. Morrison finished the year 1-2 with a 4.46 ERA in 34⅓ innings.
Morrison spent the winter at Columbia University in South Carolina, working on a master’s degree in physical education.16 He joined the Braves for spring training in 1928 in St. Petersburg, Florida, where O’Leary commented that Guy had “plenty of speed, splendid control, and other ‘stuff’ required by a successful pitcher, including mental equipment and confidence in himself,” adding, “All he asks, he says, is a thorough tryout and a chance to show what he can do.”17 Morrison had only one more appearance, however, when he entered in the seventh inning on April 27 with the Braves trailing Brooklyn, 5-0. Morrison pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth but allowed four runs in the ninth on two walks, a single, and a three-run homer by Del Bissonette. The 9-0 loss closed the book on Morrison’s major-league career, with his ERA soaring to 5.06.
Morrison was sent to Providence of the Eastern League the next day and resumed his minor-league career.18 He also became the football, baseball, and basketball coach at Montclair State Teachers College (now University) in New Jersey.19 Morrison finished two seasons pitching in Providence, going 16-14 (4.36) and 9-12 (4.55). When his pitching was done that season, he moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to become athletic director for the city school system. That brought him back to his old Three-I League stamping grounds and in 1930 he pitched one last time each for Bloomington, Peoria, and Decatur.20
Morrison remained in Grand Rapids as athletic director until 1934. He developed a blister after a golf game that developed into an infection and blood poisoning. He was hospitalized for a week and told by a physician that to save his life his right leg needed to be amputated. Morrison committed suicide by shooting himself in the head at the age of 38. “Always a well-conditioned athlete who took exceptionally fine care of himself and not being able to reconcile himself to the fact he had to have his leg amputated is said to be the real reason [for the suicide],” said the Decatur Daily Review.21 Morrison left behind his wife, Blanche. They had no children.
Morrison is buried at Sunset Memorial Park in South Charleston, West Virginia.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted the following:
Find a Grave, database and images (findagrave.com, accessed April 24, 2019), memorial page for Walter Guy Morrison (29 Aug 1895-14 Aug 1934), Find A Grave Memorial no. 48086234, citing Sunset Memorial Park, South Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Harrison G. Moore IV (contributor 47091968).
Cassidy Lent of the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center at the Baseball Hall of Fame provided a copy of Morrison’s Hall of Fame file, which included the following:
“Pitcher Guy Morrison Wages Worthy Fight for Fame on Diamond,” 1927 article of unknown origin.
1 “Morrison May Be C.H.S. Coach,” Evansville Press, July 31, 1919: 1; “Guy Morrison Sold to New York Giants,” The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois), November 2, 1922: 9.
2 “Eva Fans in Riot,” The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois), September 6, 1920; “B.H.S. First Game on September 25,” The Pantagraph, September 13, 1920: 10.
3 “Home from Evansville,” The Pantagraph, December 8, 1921: 6.
4 “Bloomington High School Wins the County Tournament,” The Pantagraph, February 13, 1922: 10.
5 Fred H. Young, “Just Between You and Me,” The Pantagraph, July 15, 1922: 10; “Guy Morrison Is Master of Rox,” The Pantagraph, July 20, 1922: 9.
6 “Miss Lindsey to Wed Guy Morrison Today,” The Pantagraph, August 9, 1922: 8.
7 H. Lee Watson, “Guy Morrison, Bloomer Star, Bought by Commodores,” Decatur Herald, March 15, 1925: 26.
8 “Morrison to Coach San Antonio High,” The Pantagraph, August 24, 1923: 10.
9 Fred H. Young, “On the Sport Trail,” The Pantagraph, September 8, 1924: 10.
10 Fred H. Young, “Just Between You and Me,” The Pantagraph, June 17, 1926: 10.
11 “Another Morrison Added to Pirates; Guy, Star Hurler of Utah Loop, Bought,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, December 10, 1926: 13.
12 “Bucs Release Guy Morrison,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 3, 1927: 25.
13 “Waterbury Pitcher Bought by Braves,” Boston Globe, August 30, 1927: 22.
14 James C. O’Leary, “Fielding Lapses Allow Reds to Bag Game, 1-0,” Boston Globe, September 1, 1927: 13.
15 Available through Baseball-reference.com Play Index. baseball-reference.com/tiny/6ZbNs.
16 Ernest J. Lanigan, “Brown and Morrison Seek Degrees in Winter Courses,” Hartford Courant, January 4, 1928: 14.
17 James C. O’Leary, “Guy Morrison Showing Well,” Boston Globe, February 27, 1928: 20.
18 Burt Whitman, “Braves to Put High Wire Net on New Bleachers; Unwise to Move Stands This Year,” Boston Herald, April 29, 1928: 23.
19 “Sport Comment,” Montclair (New Jersey) Times, January 28, 1928: 13; “Former Montclairite Takes Life in Grand Rapids,” Montclair Times, August 24, 1934: 5.
20 “Young’s Yarns,” The Pantagraph, June 22, 1930: 16.
21 Howard Millar, “Bait for Bugs,” Decatur Daily Review, August 17, 1934: 36; “Morrison Shot Self, Fearing Amputation, Inquest Verdict Says,” The Pantagraph, August 17, 1934: 10.
Walter Guy Morrison
August 29, 1895 at Hinton, WV (USA)
August 14, 1934 at Grand Rapids, MI (USA)
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