Morris James “Farmer” Steelman was born June 29, 1874 in Millville, New Jersey to Samuel B. and his wife, the former Elizabeth “Lizzie” G. Sheppard. His father worked as a carpenter. The Steelman family, which included older siblings Walter and Eva, were still living in Millville when the census was taken in 1880. They soon moved to Camden and by 1900 were living at 570 Mickle Street. Three more children had joined the family, twins Raymond and Emma and another sister, Lorella.
Morris Steelman became one of the best sandlot baseball players in South Jersey in the 1890s. He went on to have a long career as a professional baseball player, then became a policeman in Camden, New Jersey. He primarily played as a catcher, although he did play some games in the outfield. He appeared in one game as pitcher in 1904, and in one game each at first base and third base in 1899. He was never that great as a hitter, but was certainly proficient enough as a ballplayer to the extent of having a 15 year career as a professional.
Morris Steelman turned professional in 1895 when at the age of 20 with the Millville team of the South New Jersey League. He stepped up the following year, playing with the York White Roses of the Pennsylvania State League. 1897 Saw him splitting time between the Richmond Giants and Philadelphia Athletics of the Atlantic League. In 1898 he played for the Charleston Seagulls in the Southern Association, then back to the Atlantic League, for the renamed Richmond Bluebirds. He split time in 1899 between the Richmond team and the Syracuse Stars of the Eastern League.
Morris Steelman’s major league debut came on September 15, 1899 with the Louisville Colonels of the National League where he appeared in 4 games at catcher and hit.067. He spent the next year in the Eastern League with the Hartford Indians. In 1901 began the season in the National League with the Brooklyn Superbas (later known as the Dodgers). After appearing 1 game with the Superbas, he was released on May 6, 1901. Morris Steelman then caught on with the Hartford team in the Eastern League. In August of 1901 he left the Hartford team to join the Philadelphia Athletics of the then-new American League, where he appeared in 27 games, returning to the Athletics in 1902. After appearing in five games Morris Steelman’s major league career came to an end on May 22, 1902. He returned to the minor leagues, finishing the year with the Worcester Hustlers of the Eastern League. Morris Steelman married around this time.
Morris Steelman spent 1903 in the Eastern League with the Worcester team, known that years as the Riddlers, the Montreal Royals, and the Rochester Bronchos. He went to the West Coast and played for the Portland Browns of the Pacific Coast League in 1904. 1905 and 1906 were spent with the Rochester Bronchos, and 1907 and 1908 with the Utica Pent-ups of the New York State League. His final season was 1909 as a member of the Altoona Mountaineers of the Tri-State League. During his minor league career he also appeared in numerous exhibition games and played semi-pro ball in and around Camden when not connected with a professional team.
When he was not playing baseball, Morris Steelman worked as a house-painter. He married Bessie Rowbotham of 24 North 4th Street, Camden in 1902. The 1906 Camden City Directory lists Morris Steelman “baseball player” at 326 Stevens Street. The 1910 Census shows him and Bessie living at 305 Clinton Street in South Camden.
After his baseball career had ended, Morris Steelman made his home in Camden, New Jersey. He was appointed to the Camden Police Department on November 23, 1910. The 1914 City Directory has him living at 506 South 3rd Street. By September of 1918 the Steelmans had moved to 320 Warren Avenue. They were still at that address when the 1929 City Directory was compiled. The 1930 Census shows that he was still employed by the Camden Police Department as one of the Department’s switchboard operators. He and wife Bessie were living at 239 South 27th Street in East Camden.
Bessie I. Steelman died on June 13, 1937 and was buried at Arlington Cemetery in Pennsauken. By the end of 1939 Morris Steelman had moved to Merchantville, New Jersey. He passed away there on September 16, 1944 and was buried near his wife.