Hall of Fame pitcher Amos "The Hoosier Thunderbolt" Rusie was born May 30, 1871, in Mooresville, IN and died December 6, 1942 in Seattle, WA. He debuted with the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the National League at age 17, on May 9, 1889, and pitched for 10 seasons, compiling a career 3.07 ERA and leading the league in strikeouts 5 times, but also leading in bases on balls allowed 5 times. He also won the pitching Triple Crown of leading the league in strikeouts, wins, and ERA in 1894.
Rusie's strikeout totals are even more impressive when one considers that a foul ball did not count as a strike when Rusie played. This obviously made attaining 3 strikes much harder. In fact, when Rusie had 337 strikeouts in 1891, only 3 other pitchers had even half that many. On the other hand, he was not a control pitcher - he led the league in walks every season from 1890 through 1894, and threw a wild pitch which sent Hall of Fame shortstop Hughie Jennings into a coma for four days (although bizarrely, Jennings finished the game first); this led to the pitcher's rubber being moved back from 50 feet to 60 feet 6 inches for the 1893 season (it has remained there since.)
Rusie's Triple Crown performance in 1894 was especially impressive. He not only led the league, he dominated it -- his 195 strikeouts were first by 55, and his ERA of 2.78 was nearly a run better than that of anyone else (the second-best ERA was 3.70.) After the season, a man named William Temple sponsored a trophy for the winner of a series between the first- and second-place teams in the National League. Rusie's New York Giants team swept the first-place Baltimore Orioles, as Rusie had an 0.50 ERA and batted .429 in the series.
After a mediocre (by Rusie's standards) season in 1895, Andrew Freeman, owner of the Giants, tried to save money by accusing Rusie of various offenses – which Rusie denied – and fining him for them. Not only did he refuse to pay back the money, but he slashed Rusie's salary from $6,500 to $2,500. Rusie held out for the entire 1896 season, and sued Freeman for $5,000. Eventually the dispute was settled when the other owners, not wanting to see the reserve clause tested in court 74 years before Curt Flood, agreed to pay Rusie's salary.
After this incident, Rusie's decline was swift, caused by a combination from hearing loss (caused by a line drive to the head off the bat of a teammate of Hughie Jennings), personal problems, and arm trouble that began when something popped in his shoulder as he attempted a pickoff throw in 1898. He returned briefly – and unsuccessfully – in 1901, pitching 3 more games before retiring.
SABR's Baseball Biography Project
The National Baseball Hall of Fame