Tag Archives: John Crusinberry

“The Fastest Curve Ball Extent”

1 Sep

In 1921, John McGraw secured employment for Amos Rusie at the Polo Grounds; most current biographies of the “Hoosier Thunderbolt” say he first served as a night watchman and later became the superintendent of grounds at the ballpark—contemporaneous accounts said he was hired as assistant to superintendent Arthur Bell.

The suggestion that the job was an act of charity by McGraw was questioned by some of Rusie’s friends. John Crusinberry of The Chicago Tribune said when rumors had circulated in late 1920 that the former pitcher was destitute in Seattle, his former teammate Jack Doyle, then scouting for the Chicago Cubs, sought out his former teammate on a West Coast trip:

“But it wasn’t a tired and worn laborer who called. It was Mr. Amos Rusie, prominent in the business, social, and political life of Seattle.”

Crusinberry told his readers, Rusie owned a car and a home and was not simply a gas fitter, but rather the “superintendent of the municipal gas works of the city.”

His first day on the job in New York was the first time he had seen a major league game since 1900—the Yankees beat the Tigers 7 to 3.  William Blythe Hanna of The New York Herald talked to the man with, “speed like Walter Johnson’s and the fastest curve ball extent,” a couple of days later.

Ruse at Polo Grounds, 1921

Miller Huggins, the manager of the Yankees said he handed Rusie a baseball when the former pitcher arrived that first day:

“’So, that’s the lively ball?’ Said Amos. ‘Well, it feels to me exactly like the ball I used to pitch in the nineties. If it’s any livelier I have no means of telling it, so I’ll have to take you work for it.”

Rusie grips the “lively” ball

Rusie said even the ball in the 1890s made it “hard enough then to keep the other fellows from making hits,” and as for his legendary speed:

“My speed?’ added the big fellow, diffidently, ‘Oh, I dunno. They said I had a lot of it.’

“’They also say nobody ever had as fast a curve ball as you.’

“’Yes, they said that when I was pitching, but it isn’t for me to say.”

Back to the difference, or lack thereof from his perspective—between the current ball and ball of the nineties, the 50-year-old said he wouldn’t be able to tell by trying to throw one:

“I couldn’t do anything with a baseball now. It’s been a good while since I could. Arm’s gone.”

Rusie was a rarity among veterans of his era—he didn’t insist that the players and the game of his era was superior:

“I can’t see much difference in the game now and then, either. They’re doing what we did, the hit and run and the bunt and all that. Maybe outfielders play back farther now. You know we didn’t have the foul strike rule, and that made it harder on the pitchers. They had to pitch more balls.”

 To a reporter from The Associated Press, Rusie conceded some things had changed:

“In the old days the Polo Ground’s stands were wooden affairs, not nearly so large as the steal ones now. The ‘L’ trains were drawn by steam engines then, and there weren’t any subways. Instead, if taxicabs, the sports used Hansom cabs. But—it’s the same old game.”

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