Amos Rusie was the hardest throwing pitcher in baseball in the 1890s, and winner of 248 games in just 10 seasons. He starred when the mound was 50 feet from home plate, and when it was 60 feet, six inches away as well. He sat out the entire 1896 season in a contract dispute, and missed 1899 and 1900 when he feuded with the National League. After being traded for Christy Mathewson, Rusie was finished at the age of 30. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977, more than 30 years after his death. | Full bio ⇓
|Career Batting Stats
Best Season: 1891
Rusie led the National League with 337 strikeouts. He was 33-20 in 57 starts, pitching more than 500 innings. He also hit .245 with 15 RBI.
John McGraw said of Rusie, "You can't hit what you can't see." The tall right-hander had the best fastball of his era, and complemented it with a sharp breaking ball.
Amos Wilson Rusie was born on May 30, 1871, in Mooreseville, Indiana, a small farming community, located in the heartland of rural America. When he was just 18 years old, Rusie signed with the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the National League. The team posted a mediocre 59-75 record, but Rusie went 12-10. After the season, Indianapolis folded, and the young right-hander signed on with the New York Giants.
New York was quite a change for Rusie, who had spent his entire life in the midwest, but he quickly grew to admire the big lights and nightlife of the city. In 1890 he led the league with 341 strikeouts, winning 29 games. He led the NL in K's again the following year, as the Giants climbed to third place. In 1891 Rusie won 33 games, the first of four consecutive 30-win seasons. He used his lighting-quick fastball, described by author Robert Smith as "a sudden streak and a noise in the catcher's glove." In 1893 the pitching rubber was moved back to a distance of 60 feet, six inches, allowing Rusie to better utlize his curveball, which was really just a slow version of his fastball, that tailed into right-handed batters.
Success went to Rusie's head, and soon he was drinking heavily and carousing with teammates and unsavory characters at all hours of the evening. Sportswriter Sam Crane wrote: "Starting out life with everything in his favor, Rusie went through his active pitching days as though on a continuous joy ride. He broke training when he felt like it and never looked upon life as a serious matter."
Rusie's wild antics off the diamond caught the attention of Giants' owner Andrew Freedman, who fined him several times for staying out past curfew. Prior to the 1896 season, Freedman cut Rusie's pay $600 due to unpaid fines. Rusie sued the team to get out of his contract and sat out the entire year as the courts decided the issue. When a group of NL owners became fearful that the reserve clause would be overturned, they pooled their money and settled the matter out of court, giving Rusie a handsome raise.
Vindicated, Rusie returned in 1897 and won 28 games, but it was his last great season. In the middle of the year he hurt his arm and lost his fastball for good. He returned to win 20 games in 1898, but never won another major league game. In 1899, unable to agree on a salary with Freedman, and hounded by debts and marital problems, Rusie sat out the season. The next spring, Rusie tried to latch on with a team but received no offers. He had essentially been blackballed by the owners for his law suit in 1896. In 1901, the Giants, who still owned his rights, traded Rusie to the Cincinnati Reds for a young pitcher named Christy Mathewson. It became one of baseball's most lopsided trades of all-time. Mathewson went on to help the Giants to World Series titles, while Rusie pitched three games for Cincinnati before retiring with his sore arm.
Rusie retreated to Indiana, still just 30 years old. He worked for a pulp mill for several years, pitching occassionally for local semi-pro teams. In 1911 he moved his family to Seattle to take a job as a steamfitter. He stayed in Seattle for several years before Giants' manager John McGraw offered him a job as the superintendent of the Polo Grounds. After eight years in that position, Rusie and his wife returned to Washington state and bought a farm. In 1930, Rusie was arrested for threatening to run over his wife with a car. Charges were dropped, but Rusie's bad luck continued. In 1934 he was severely injured in a car crash, suffering multiple broken bones and a head injury. In 1942 Rusie's wife died, and Rusie followed her six weeks later. The New York Giants had been paying Rusie a small pension for several years.
Rusie won 248 games in just 10 seasons in the big leagues. He led the NL in strikeouts five times, shutouts four times, ERA twice, and wins once. He also paced the league in walks five times. In 1977, the Veterans Committee elected Rusie to National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rusie for Mathewson
There's a lot more to the trade that sent Rusie to the Reds than meets the eye. Late in 1900, Cincinnati owner John Brush was in the process of completing a deal to buy controlling interest of the New York Giants from Andrew Freedman. Brush wanted desperately to get into the New York market. The deal was contingent on Brush being able to bring young pitcher Christy Mathewson with him. Freedman agreed to swap Rusie for Mathewson a few months before the sale of the teams, fully aware that Rusie's arm was shot. The deal was announced, Mathewson went to New York, Rusie went to Cincinnati and pitched just three games, and Brush bought the Giants from Freedman for a hefty price. Brush had smuggled in his ace, who would win 372 games for the Giants in 17 seasons.
Rusie had five consecutive season in which he walked at least 200 batters, and in 1890 he set the all-time mark with 289 free passes.
Amos Wilson Rusie was born on May 30, 1871, in Mooresville, IN.
December 6, 1942, Seattle, WA
Major League Debut
Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1889
The Hoosier Thunderbolt
|Hall of Fame Voting
7/31/1891: For NYN (N) vs. BRO (N), 11-0 at NYN. 9 innings pitched.
Awards and Honors
1894 NL Triple Crown
December 15, 1900: Traded by the New York Giants to the Cincinnati Reds for Christy Mathewson.
Best Strength as a Player
Largest Weakness as a Player
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