“The Speed of Rusie”

30 May

Hall of Famer Amos Rusie “The Hoosier Thunderbolt,” was famous for his fastball; it’s been estimated that he threw in the high 90s.  In only nine full seasons he led National League pitchers in strikeouts five times.

Amos Rusie

Amos Rusie

Sports writer William A. Phelon contended that Rusie was the fastest pitcher he had seen, and in 1913 he told a story by James Tilford Jones who played for the Louisville Colonels in 1897, and was still a fairly well-known minor league player.

The likely apocryphal story (Jones only had one at bat as a pinch hitter that season, and did not strike out)  appeared in The Cincinnati Times Star, and according to Phelon, Jones said:

“ Don’t tell me that Walter Johnson, or any other pitcher of the present time, is faster than Rusie, or even that any man has the speed that Rusie used to throw…That man was unique and individual –there was never one like him before his time, and none since.  I don’t think there ever will be.

“My first experience with Rusie happened a long, long time ago, when he was in full swing and I was playing with Louisville, then a member of the big circuit.  I was warming the bench that particular afternoon, and wasn’t specially noticing the work of the other side, when our manager (Fred Clarke) beckoned me.  ‘Joensey’ said he, ‘you go up and bat for the pitcher.  Two on, two down—we just gotta have this game.  Go up there and lay the bat against the leather.’

“’All right sir’ I assented.  I’ll pickle one outside the lot if he puts it over.’  And up I strode, with a fat bat in my hands.  I saw a very large, red-faced man standing out there on the pitching line and I saw him raise his right arm.  I was wondering why on earth he didn’t throw it, when heard something go POW, just like that, behind me.  I looked around.  It was the thud of the ball ramming into the big mitt, and the umpire said, ‘One strike.’

“I watched the big man keenly, and again he raised his arm while I set myself to annihilate the ball.  An instant later I saw a ball going by me, and swung at it.  It was the ball being returned by the catcher, and I thought it was coming up instead of going away.

“By this time I was furious, also desperately determined.  So I set myself almost upon the plate, with the bat jutting out, and watched the big man very closely.  Then something crashed into my bat, ripped it from my hands, and drove it round against the back of my neck—and I knew no more.

“Two or three days later, the situation was exactly the same—Rusie pitching, our pitcher up, and dire need of a pinch hitter.  Again the manager beckoned me. ‘Go up and hit him, Jonesey’ growled he.

“I marched up to the plate, but went up empty-handed— didn’t even pick up my bat—and calmly stood there in the batter’s box, with nothing but my bare hands.  ‘Hey you,’ yelled the manager, ‘where’s your bat.’

“’Don’t need it,’ I shouted back.  ‘I can’t see them anyway, and it is a whole lot safer with nothing in my hands than be up here with a chunk of timber that he might drive clear through my head!’

“Oh, yes, yes.  Rusie had some speed when he wanted to use it, and I never remember seeing him any time when he wasn’t inclined to use it, either.”

Jones only appeared in two games during the 1897 season; in his first game he pitched 6 2/3 innings in relief in a 36-7 loss to the Chicago Colts, giving up 22 runs, 14 earned—the Colts’ 36 runs are still the Major League record.

Jimmy Jones

Jimmy Jones

Jones became a full-time outfielder in 1900 and returned to the National league with the New York Giants in 1901; he appeared in 88 games for the 1901-02 Giants, hitting .209 and .237.

He returned to the minor leagues and continued playing until 1914, and finished his career managing the Maysville (KY) Burley Cubs in the Ohio State League in 1916.  He served as Laurel County Clerk for twenty years, and died in London, Kentucky in 1953.

Rusie retired with a 245-174 record, striking out 1,934 and walking 1.704.  He died in 1942 and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1977.

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12 Responses to ““The Speed of Rusie””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “A Great deal of foolish Sympathy was wasted on Rusie” | Baseball History Daily - September 3, 2013

    […] O’Day, pitcher and Hall of Fame umpire, said Amos Rusie was the greatest pitcher he ever […]

  2. “A Great deal of foolish Sympathy was wasted on Rusie” | Baseball History Daily - September 5, 2013

    […] O’Day, pitcher and Hall of Fame umpire, said Amos Rusie was the greatest pitcher […]

  3. “Fear of the Black List has Stopped Many a Crooked Player from Jumping” | Baseball History Daily - September 9, 2013

    […] Montgomery Ward, Meekin’s manager with the New York Giants, said he was, along with Amos Rusie, Tim Keefe, John Clarkson and Kid Nichols, the “most marvelous pitchers as ever […]

  4. “I Consider him a Weak, Foolish Talker” | Baseball History Daily - November 13, 2013

    […] told William A. Phelon of The Chicago Daily News that his former player wasn’t too bright, but that he also wasn’t […]

  5. “Three or four Men who looked like Wonders in the Big Leagues Disappeared” | Baseball History Daily - January 13, 2014

    […] 1912 The Cincinnati Times- Star‘s Sports Editor William A. Phelon questioned why professional baseball had not become […]

  6. “There is a Constant fear that Someday the Men will Decline to go on the field.” | Baseball History Daily - March 31, 2014

    […]  The only highlights for Indianapolis in 1889 was the arrival of 18-year-old Indiana native Amos Rusie, who posted a 12-10 record, and Jack Glasscock who hit .352, for the […]

  7. “The result is interesting. Incidentally, also, repulsive.” | Baseball History Daily - April 14, 2014

    […] Mike Tiernan ‘has escaped very luckily,” and among pitchers Amos Rusie, William “Dad” Clarke and Jouett Meekin “disfigured fingers are […]

  8. Giants Versus Phillies in Verse | Baseball History Daily - May 30, 2014

    […] no use.  Rusie fanned the […]

  9. “The Fans there Like me. I Think so Anyway.” | Baseball History Daily - October 31, 2014

    […] said Old Cy.  ‘I guess you never saw Amos Rusie.  My fastball looks like a slow freight trying to keep up with the Twentieth Century Limited […]

  10. “’Amos, old Boy, don’t Forget the left foot Racket.’ | Baseball History Daily - December 12, 2014

    […] Amos Rusie’s great 1894 season—36-13, 2.78 ERA–Troy told The New York […]

  11. “People who saw the Sport are still Laughing” | Baseball History Daily - December 17, 2014

    […] “The fate of Mr. Mahoney is no new experience for a young pitcher.  Many a man who has afterward been a star has been a horrible fizzle on his first appearance, while many a man who has panned out no good on earth has made a glorious debut.  Thornton was a conspicuous success on his initial day, and has been nothing in the way of box work since.  (Clark) Griffith did not do very well the first tie he pitched for (Cap) Anson, and he is the best of all nowadays.  Mr. Mahoney, if given a fair show, may yet become a (Amos) Rusie.” […]

  12. “A Historical Account of a Great Game of Ball” | Baseball History Daily - February 29, 2016

    […] Foster is the pitcher of the Leland Giants, and he has all the speed of (Amos) Rusie, the tricks of a Radbourne, and the heady coolness and deliberation of a Cy Young.  What does that […]

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