Monday, May 30, 2005


May 30th, 1871

Amos Rusie Born

Amos Rusie was a pitcher for the New York Giants in the end of the nineteenth century, who pitched the high inning totals typical of the era--over five hundred innings thrice, over four hundred and three hundred twice--and was finished as a Major League pitcher by age twenty-eight. There's plenty to say about Rusie's career; a New York reporter once said the "Giants without Rusie would be like Hamlet without the Melancholy Dane" and a drink was named for him (I'm afraid how one mixes a "Hoosier Thunderbolt" has been lost to time), but I think the story of his life after his career is more interesting.

Rusie, after having not pitched in the Majors since 1898, made a comeback, or thirty innings worth of one anyway, for the Cincinnati Reds. He had been traded by the Giants to the Reds in exchange for a name you'd know, Christy Mathewson. At first blush this seems an awful trade, a washed-up former star, and one used to pitching from a fifty foot mound to boot, for one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. However, it was actually a gigantic scam. The Giants wanted Mathewson but didn't want to pay the $2,000 it would have taken to get him from the Norfolk Mary Janes of the Virginia League as required by previous agreement. To this end, the Giants returned Mathewson to the Mary Janes--some name, by the way--where he was then drafted by the Reds who, as part of a prearranged deal, then took Mathewson from the Mary Janes for the mere $100 as required by the rules and then traded him to the Giants for Rusie.

After the stretch in
Cincinnati, Rusie moved back to Indiana and worked for most of the Aughts (a decade whose first half saw Mathewson dominating the National League) as a steamfitter in Seattle. In 1921, John McGraw gave him a job as the night watchman in the Polo Grounds, along with two other Giants' stars from Rusie's era, Bill Dahlen and Dan Brouthers. This saved Dahlen, who had fallen into the bottle and probably did Rusie and Brouthers a lot of good as well. Rusie left the job in 1929 and returned to Seattle where he bounced around as the Great Depression ended many of the businesses Rusie worked for or owned and in 1934 he suffered a car accident which left him with a concussion and broken ribs. He returned to the more rustic areas of Washington State and died in obscurity in 1942. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977.

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