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Donie Bush

Donie Bush

Position(s):
SS, 3B, 2B
Born:
October 8, 1887
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 6"
Weight:
140 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-18-1908 with DET

he 5'6" 140-lb Tiger shortstop was a clever leadoff man who led the league in bases on balls five times. Despite a long, respectable playing career, Bush is best remembered as a manager.

In fourteen seasons in the major leagues, Bush displayed a keen eye and a talent for drawing bases on balls, drawing more walks during the decade from 1910–1919 than any other player in Major League Baseball. He was also an excellent contact hitter who was consistently among the league leaders in sacrifice hits, runs scored, and stolen bases. Bush is also remembered as one of the best fielding shortstops of the Dead-ball era. He holds the Major League records for most triple plays (9) and most putouts in a season by a shortstop with 425. He was also regularly among the American League leaders in assists by a shortstop, and still holds the American League record for total chances by a shortstop. Bush was a true baseball man who spent 67 years (1905–1972) working in professional baseball as a Major League manager (including manager of the 1927 Pirates team that lost in the World Series to the 1927 Yankees), minor league manager, scout, owner, and executive. He remained active until 1972, succumbing to an illness and died eating a hot dog while working as a scout in Florida at age 84. He became known in Indiana as "Mr. Baseball."

He led the Pirates to the World Series in 1927, where they were swept by the powerhouse Yankees. His vindictiveness may have been a factor; angry with future Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler over a minor transgression, Bush benched him during the WS. After managing for seven major league seasons, Bush skippered in Triple-A, and became owner of the Indianapolis club. He later scouted for the Red Sox and worked for the White Sox to complete 65 years in organized baseball.

Semi-pro and minor leagues

Bush was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and raised on the east side of that city. He played semi-pro ball for local teams, and began his professional career in 1905 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with the Copper Country Soo. After playing with South Bend (Central) in 1907, the Detroit Tigers acquired Bush's contract and assigned him to the Indianapolis Indians. Bush helped the Indians finish first in 1908, and by mid-September he called up to play for the Tigers.

Detroit Tigers
Bush was the Tigers' starting shortstop for thirteen seasons from 1909-1921. Only Alan Trammell played for a longer time as the Detroit shortstop. In 1914, Bush came in third in the American League Most Valuable Player voting behind Eddie Collins and Detroit teammate Sam Crawford. He also finished 14th in the Most Valuable Player voting in 1911 and 12th in 1913. For a player who did not hit for high average or power, his MVP votes were the result of his fielding as a shortstop and his talent for stealing bases, drawing bases on balls, and scoring runs.


In his first full season in Major League Baseball, Bush helped lead the Tigers to the 1909 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though Honus Wagner's Pirates beat the Tigers 4 games to 3, rookie Bush was the surprise hitting star for Detroit. With Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford slumping in the World Series (batting .231 and .250 respectively), Bush picked up the slack. He hit .318 during the seven-game series with an on-base percentage of .483, picking up 7 hits, 5 bases on balls, 3 sacrifice hits, and twice being hit by a pitch. Bush scored 5 runs and collected 3 RBIs in the World Series. In Game 3, he had 4 hits, and in Game 6, he had a hit, 2 walks and was hit by a pitch. Bush played all seven game of the World Series at shortstop, collecting 9 putouts, 18 assists, and 3 double plays (but also committing 5 errors).

 "It Ain't How Big You Are, It's How Good You Are"

Bush was one of the shortest players in the major leagues at 5-foot (1.5 m), 6 inches, and 130 pounds. He once said, "I used to tell 'em it ain't how big you are, it's how good you are. But whenever another team had an uncommonly small player, I'd slip up and compare heights. Always turned out he was an inch taller than me."

Fielding records
Bush played in 1,867 Major League games at shortstop. Possessing both speed and agility, Bush collected more putous, assists, and chances than any other shortstop of the era. Nearly a century later, his 1914 total of 425 putouts is still the Major League record for shortstops. [3] His 1914 total of 969 chances is also still the American League record. He led the American League in assists by a shortstop on five occasions: 1909 (567), 1911 (556), 1912 (547), 1914 (544), and 1915 (504). [5] In 1911, he totaled a remarkable 6.7 total chances per game.

Bush also holds the all-time Major League Baseball record (shared with Bid McPhee) for most career triple plays with nine. Bush's triple plays came on May 4, 1910, April 24, 1911, May 20, 1911, September 9, 1911, April 6, 1912, August 23, 1917, August 14, 1919, May 18, 1921, and September 14, 1921.

Bases on balls
Bush ranked among the league leaders in bases on balls twelve straight years, from 1909 through 1920. He walked over 80 times in each of his first seven full seasons. In 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, and 1914, he led the league in the category. His career high was 118 bases on balls in 1915. During the decade from 1910–1919, no one had more bases on balls than Bush. At the time of his retirement in 1923, Bush had 1,158 walks, No. 2 on the all-time Major League walks list, trailing only Eddie Collins. With bases on balls more prevalent in modern baseball, Bush now ranks No. 55 in MLB history, but in the early days of baseball, Bush and Collins were the all-time leaders.

Babe Ruth's Most Thrilling Game
Bush also broke up a noteworthy no-hitter on July 11, 1917. With Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth having allowed no hits, Bush hit a scratch single in the 8th inning. After giving up the single to Bush, the Bambino struck out the Tigers' best three hitters in the 9th (Bobby Veach, Sam Crawford, and Ty Cobb) to secure a 1-0 complete game shutout. In a 1942 speech in Los Angeles‚ Ruth called this game his greatest thrill.

Stolen Bases, runs and sacrifice hits
In addition to his prowess for drawing bases on balls and fielding, Bush's speed also made him a threat on the basepaths. His career total of 404 stolen bases places him 64th on the all-time list. Bush set the American League record for stolen bases by a rookie with 52, a record that stood until Kenny Lofton stole 66 bases in 1992. Bush ranked in the Top 10 in stolen bases in the American League ten times from 1909-1919.

Despite hitting .250 for his career, Bush's talent for drawing walks pushed him into the Top 10 in On Base Percentage four times. His 1909 On Base Percentage of .380 was third in the American League behind teammate Ty Cobb and Eddie Collins.

Bush's speed and ability to get on base also made him one of the top run scorers of his era. He led the American League in runs in 1917 with 112 and was among the league leaders in runs ten times (1909–1915 and 1917–1919). During the decade from 1910 to 1919, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, and Tris Speaker were the only players to score more runs than Bush. His career high came in 1911, when he scored 126 runs, second only to Ty Cobb.

Bush was also a contact hitter with a talent for sacrifice hits. He collected 337 sacrifice hits in his career, ranking him 5th on the all time Major League leader list (behind Hall of Famers Eddie Collins and Willie Keeler). He led the league with 52 sacrifice hits in 1909 (4th highest single season total in major league history), and hit another 48 (7th highest single season total in MLB history) in 1920.

In a sixteen-season career, Bush had a .356 On Base Percentage, 6,286 assists, 4,119 putouts, 2,165 total bases, 1,280 runs, 1,158 bases on balls, and 404 stolen bases.

Managerial career
Bush also served as a Major League manager for seven seasons with the Washington Senators (player/manager 1923), Pittsburgh Pirates (1927–1929), and Chicago White Sox (1930–1931), and Cincinnati Reds (1933). In his managerial career, he was 497-539 in 1,045 career games, a .480 winning percentage.

As player-manager for the Washington Senators, Bush showed his baseball savvy in an August 2, 1923 game against the St. Louis Browns. Bush noticed early in the game that Hank Severeid and Wally Gerber had swapped spots in the batting order and batted out of turn. In the second, fifth and seventh innings both Gerber and Severeid made outs so Bush said nothing. However, in the ninth inning, Gerber hit a single with two out and a runner on first base. Bush objected to the umpire that Gerber had batted out of order. Gerber was declared out to end the game.

After leaving the Senators, Bush became the manager for the Indianapolis minor league team for three seasons from 1924-1926.

His greatest success as a manager came with the Pirates from 1927 to 1929. The Pirates were loaded with talent during Bush's tenure including Hall of Famers, Pie Traynor, "Big Poison" and "Little Poison" Paul Waner and Lloyd Waner, Kiki Cuyler, and Joe Cronin. Bush led them to a National League pennant in 1927 with a 94-60 record. Unfortunatey, they had to play the Yankees in the 1927 World Series. The 1927 Yankees (110-44), with the Murderer's Row lineup, are considered one of the best teams of all time. The Yankees swept Bush's Pirates four games to none.

Bush is also remembered, and often criticized, for his feud with Pirates star Kiki Cuyler during the 1927 season. Cuyler was unhappy about being switched from third to second in the batting order, and he allegedly slackened his effort for a few games. Bush reacted by benching Cuyler in August and not playing him again for the rest of the season, even keeping him out of the World Series. Bush ignored chants from Pirate fans, "We want Cuyler! We want Cuyler," in the games at Pittsburgh. After the season, the Pirates traded Cuyler to the Cubs.

Bush's Pirates finished in 4th place in 1928 and in 2nd place in 1929. During the 1929 season, Bush (who played most of his career in the Dead-ball era) complained to a Pittsburgh reporter about the new "lively ball." The reporter described his encounter with Bush as follows: "The Pirate pilot was asked if the ball is as closely related to a rabbit as has been alleged by some indignant players. 'It's not a ball‚ it's a bullet‚' said Donie. 'Somebody's going to get killed if they don't watch out. A pitcher who has to put the ball over hasn't a chance. All he can do is to pitch and duck.'" Bush resigned as the Pirates' manager on August 28, 1929.

After leaving Pittsburgh, Bush managed the Chicago White Sox for two years in 1930 and 1931. While his years with the White Sox were also Luke Appling's first two years in the major leagues, the White Sox lacked talent and finished 7th and 8th under Bush. The Sox lost 97 games for a .366 win percentage in Bush's final year in Chicago.

In 1932, Bush managed the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association to a 100-68 record and a first-place finish. His performance brought him back to the majors to manage the 1933 Cincinnati Reds. Despite a roster with five Hall of Famer players (Ernie Lombardi, Eppa Rixey, Jim Bottomley, Chick Hafey, and Leo Durocher), the Reds finished in last place, with 94 losses in their only season under Bush.

After leaving the White Sox, Bush returned to managing the Minneapolis Millers from 1934-1938.

Minor league owner and executive
In 1939, Bush and two partners, Indiana banker, Frank McKinney and Tom Yawkey, bought the Louisville Cardinals of the American Association for $100,000. Bush and McKinney saw a quick opportunity to recoup their investment, selling Louisville shortstop and future Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese on July 27, 1939 for a reported $75‚000 and players to be named. Yawkey voted against the sale, but Bush and McKinney voted for it. After the 1940 season, Bush and his partners sold the Louisville franchise.

In 1941, Bush and McKinney bought the Indianapolis Indians, Bush's hometown team for whom he had been a player in 1908 and a manager from 1924-1926. Bush served as the team president and general manager, and took over as the field manager for 1943 and part of 1944.

The Cleveland Indians bought the Indianapolis franchise in 1951, and Bush worked for a time as a scout for the Boston Red Sox. Four years later, the Indianapolis team became a community-owned team through a public stock offering. Bush became the first president of the community-owned team, a position he held until 1969.

Bush spent 65 years (1907–1972) playing, managing or working in some capacity in professional baseball. In 1972, Bush was working as a scout for the Chicago White Sox at age 84. While scouting at spring training in Florida, Bush fell ill and died three weeks later after returning home to Indianapolis. He was 84.

Indiana's "Mr. Baseball"
Bush was elected to the Indiana Baseball hall of fame and was known as "Mr. Baseball" in Indianapolis. At baseball's 1963 winter meetings, major league executives named him "King of Baseball."

Resources:

Baseball Library and Wikipedia

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