Amos “The Hoosier Thunderbolt” Rusie (1871-1942) had an exceptional name, nickname, and lightning-fast fastball. Nicknamed as such due to his Indiana heritage and exceptional pitch speed, this Hall of Fame pitcher led the league in strikeouts five times, in shutouts and ERA twice, wins once, and was a one-time pitching Triple Crown winner (leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts in 1894). He also holds the less-than-savory major league record for walks in a season, having given up 289 free passes in 1890.
Born to a mason and plasterer named William Asbury Rusie (and his wife, Mary Donavan), Rusie quit school to work in a factory at a young age. During this time, The Hoosier Thunderbolt gained recognition for his pitching while a member of a semi-pro team named – get this – the Sturm Avenue Never Sweats. What a fantastic, amazing, wonderful name! At the age of 18, Rusie signed on with the Central Interstate League’s Burlington Babies. Now there’s an intimidating team name for you! Shortly after, however, the erstwhile Never Sweat became a member of the National League’s Indianapolis Hoosiers, and the rest is history.
Well, actually, it isn’t. Perhaps Rusie’s biggest contribution to baseball happened a few years later, when he struck Hughie Jennings in the head with one of his patented fast pitches, putting the future Hall of Famer in a coma for several days. This prompted league officials to move the pitcher’s mound from 50 feet from home to the still-customary 60 feet, 6 inches. For the record, this change did not affect this famous Amos’ ability to consistently put up cookies (0s) on the scoreboard.
The Hoosier Thunderbolt was also a media and cultural sensation during his career. Famed vaudeville act Weber and Fields used his name, a book about him was sold for a quarter (a large sum in those days), he received a message from legendary actress Lillian Russell, and even had a drink named after him.
I can almost still hear the echo of early-1900’s bar patrons all over the country saying, “I’ll have a Rusie please – Thunderbolt style!”
(For the record folks, that’s not the real name of the drink – I assume, since I have no idea what it was actually called – but it sure sounds like a classy beverage, doesn’t it?)