Barney Morris

"Gee whiz, I was in awe of them guys. Hilton Smith, Quincy Trouppe, Barney Morris–my gosh, you put those guys in a Major League uniform today!"

--Joe Desiderato, Morris' teammate on the Bismarck Churchills

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Negro Leaguer of the Month
July, 2003

Barney Morris
Born: 1915?
Died: 1962 in Queens, NY
Ht: 6'-1", Wt: 175
Batted right and threw right.
Positions: pitcher
Years: 1931-1950

Teams: Monroe Monarchs, Bismarck Churchills, New York Cubans, Jamestown Red Sox, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Winona Merchants

Barney Morris was one of the top right-handed pitchers in the Negro Leagues in the 1930s, but is best known as a member of the greatest pitching staff in semi-pro baseball history, the 1935 Bismarck Churchills featuring Satchel Paige, Chet Brewer, Hilton Smith, Double Duty Radcliffe and Morris.

This 5-man rotation had a combined record of 55-6 (.902 winning percentage), and led Bismarck to the first National Semipro Championship in Wichita, Kansas.

Morris grew up in the South, and his first top team was the Monroe (Louisiana) Monarchs of the Negro Southern League. Morris was the top pitcher on the Monarchs, who also boasted a young Hilton Smith, Zollie Wright, Red Parnell, Leroy Morney and Augustus Saunders.

In 1932, the Monarchs were proclaimed the top team in the South and they challenged the Pittsburgh Crawfords, the top team of the East, and considered one of the greatest teams in Negro League history.

The Crawfords beat the Monarchs 5 games to 1 in a best-of-nine series, with the only Monroe win coming when Morris beat Sam Streeter 2-1.

Morris with the 1932 Monroe Monarchs
(courtesy Paul Letlow)

In 1934, Morris was contacted by Bismarck, North Dakota to pitch, and in 1935 Morris and Hilton Smith both jumped the Monroe Monarchs to play full-time with Bismarck.

Morris possessed a 90 mile-an-hour fastball, and the best knuckleball in the Negro Leagues leading to some huge strikeout totals. In 1935 Morris boasted 12 wins against only 3 losses.

Morris's losses came against the Kansas City Monarchs (2 to 1), a Mexican All-Star team (3 to 0), and the House of David (9 to 4).

Morris's wins included a 3-hitter against the Shreveport Acme Giants in which he struck out 12 and homered, and a Canadian Tournament in which he won 3 games in 2 days by scores of 7-2, 9-0 and 9-1 (all complete games)!

Morris was a decent hitter, batting .260 during the '35 campaign, and he played some outfield and even caught Satchel Paige once during the year.

Morris returned to Bismarck for the 1936 season, the last season Bismarck would field a semipro team for decades. Morris then played for several teams in the United States, Cuba and Mexico.

In 1937, Morris pitched for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and was selected to start the East-West All-star game where he
hurled 3 innings and was the winning pitcher.*

Morris also made the East squad in 1944 with the New York Cubans and he came into the game in the 5th inning and gave up a homerun on his first pitch to his old Bismarck catcher Double Duty Radcliffe.

In 1947, the New York Cubans won the Negro League World Series and Morris threw a shutout in his only start in the series.

After retiring from baseball in the early 1950s, Morris moved to New York and worked as a cab driver until he died of cancer in the early 1960s

*Some information gathered from "Black Baseball's Showcase," by Larry Lester. Check the link on the home page to purchase book.