Amos Rusie

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Indianapolis Hoosiers, 1889; New York Giants, 1890-1895, 1897-1898; Cincinnati Reds, 1901

Amos Rusie
Pitcher Amos Rusie was known as
"The Hoosier Thunderbolt."

Amos Rusie is one of the few players in the Hall of Fame who spent fewer than 10 full seasons in the major leagues. Rusie’s career was abbreviated by two bitter holdouts he staged against New York Giants owner Andrew Freedman.

Born in Mooresville, Indiana, Amos Wilson Rusie (1871-1942) was still a child when his family moved to Indianapolis. At age 16, he quit school to work in a factory and pitch for a local amateur team.

Less than two years later, Rusie was pitching for the Indianapolis Hoosiers (then in the National League), who signed the local boy for both his drawing-card appeal and his blinding speed.

In 1890, the 19-year-old Rusie led all NL hurlers with 341 strikeouts. Indianapolis had folded by then, and most of the team’s better players (Rusie included) had become the property of the New York Giants.

Gotham was not an ideal place for the young fireballer. By his early 20s, he had a drinking problem. Worse, he could not escape Freedman, who was both vindictive and a cheapskate -- a lethal combination in an owner during the 1890s (the most repressive era in major-league history).

In the pitcher’s box, though, “The Hoosier Thunderbolt” was in his element. More than any other hurler, Rusie prompted the last significant change in the geometric design of the playing field. During the 1892 season, batting averages plummeted to a record low. The game’s rulemakers then decided to move the pitching distance from 50 feet from home plate to 60 feet, six inches.

Although Rusie’s strikeouts dipped sharply in 1893, the first year the mound was situated at its present location, he still led the league by a total nearly double that of runner-up Brickyard Kennedy. After topping the loop in whiffs again the next two seasons, Rusie sat out all 1896 when Freedman first attempted to fine him $200 and then cut his pay.

Returning in 1897, when the other clubs kicked in $5,000 to reimburse him for the salary he had lost in 1896, Rusie had two more strong years with the Giants. Wounded by Freedman’s skinflint methods again, Amos skipped the 1899 season, then was prevented by personal problems from playing in 1900.

Reds’ owner John Brush was about to purchase part of the Giants in 1901. So before the 1901 campaign, Rusie was traded to Cincinnati for Christy Mathewson. While Mathewson went on to win 372 games in the majors, Rusie proved to be all washed up. Rusie was named to the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Here are Amos Rusie’s major league totals:

246 174 3.07 462 392 3,769.2 3,384 1,286 1,704 1,934

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