Tag Archives: Benjamin Harrison

“Amos Rusie’s Running Astray and Amuck”

12 May

In April of 1896, Oliver Perry “OP” Caylor of The New York Herald said of Amos Rusie, who was weeks into what would be a season-long holdout and legal battle:

“Rusie is just now a bigger man than old Harrison in Indianapolis.”

Amos Rusie

Benjamin Harrison, the former president, was rumored to be seeking the Republican nomination later that year, and Caylor said even if he became a candidate again, it would not elevate him to “that prominence in the public mind which the recalcitrant pitcher attained in his ‘hold off.’”

As for the current resident of the White House:

“Recently I had the pleasure of meeting the president of the United States at his desk in Washington. Probably to avoid the undesirable topic of politics, Mr. Cleveland brought up the subject of baseball.”

President Grover Cleveland told him:

“I was very fond of the game when I lived in Buffalo and had time to see it played. We had a good team up there then. There were (Pud) Galvin, who rated well as a pitcher, and (Jack) Rowe, and that big man who played first base—what was his name?’

“I said it was (Dan) Brouthers, and that he is still playing.”

The president was curious about finances:

“’These ball players get pretty good salaries, do they not?’ Inquired the president.

“When I told him that some received $3000 for six months’ service and yet were not satisfied, that catching smile, which is so infectious, lighted up his face as he aptly replied.

“’Well, Washington is pretty full of people who are glad to get employment at $1200 a year.”

President Grover Cleveland

Caylor, always an ally of ownership, concluded:

“And yet Amos Rusie refuses $400 a month on a technicality. No wonder baseball players as a class have the reputation of being the most unreasonable people on earth.”

Caylor, in another column, blamed the whole situation on former Giants outfielder Eddie Burke who he claimed, “was responsible for Amos Rusie’s running astray and amuck on the primrose path.”

The Indianapolis Journal told the story of what led to the dispute:

 “It started, to recount it briefly, in Jacksonville last year when the Giants were training there. Rusie drank too much. He never denied it. They said that he got drunk and insulted the mayor of the town. That was very naughty. In Baltimore again he and Eddie Burke…got ‘loaded,’ and were fined $100 each.”

Burke’s fine was rescinded, the paper said, and Rusie’s was—for a time:

“The last game of the season was with Baltimore, and Freedman sent down word by manager Harvey Watkins if Rusie didn’t win that game he would fine him another $100. It was talked about and got to Rusie, and the game was lost.”

Rusie was pounded for eight runs and walked seven in an 8 to 3 loss to the Orioles.

“Two hundred was held out of his pay and he went back to Indianapolis at the seasons close.”

While the pitcher sat at home in Indiana, Caylor said, “The national character of baseball was aptly illustrated,” at the 1896 season opener between the Rusie-less Giants and the Senators in Washington.

Three members of President Cleveland’s cabinet were in attendance, “and a reporter counted 40 members of the two houses of Congress among the rooters.”

Caylor chided Rusie for the holdout throughout the season; In October he wrote:

“He has been been met more than half way by President Freedman, and I am glad to announce that the Big Boy will be with us in 1896. If Amos is a friend to himself he will begin right now and turn up in the spring fully fortified to carry out his promise.”

A full year later, in April of 1897, Rusie signed again with the Giants for $3000 (the league reported the salary as $2400) and settled his legal claims for $5000. The Journal said:

“(T)he big fellow gets every cent he started out for, as well as all his attorneys’ fees. It is really not a compromise, but a capitulation on the part of Freedman, insisted upon by the league, and a tacit admission by that organization that the reserve rule, while all powerful in baseball and quite necessary to the life of the game, is not fitted to stand the strain of a court trial.”

Rusie left Indiana to join the team on April 20, two days before their season opener. The Indianapolis News said the “Hoosier Thunderbolt,” was:

“In better shape than he has been in years.”

Rusie was 28-10 with a 2.54 ERA for the third place Giants.