It’s always fun to go onto baseball-reference.com and go down a rabbit hole. You find the most amazing and interesting stats on that site.
I was on the site just browsing around and was looking at pitchers who have walked more than 200 batters in a season. Of course, it is dominated by pitchers who played in the 1800s. It makes sense since they pitched 400 and 500 innings on a regular basis. An interesting note: Only two players have done it in the 1900s: Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan. In fact, Ryan did it twice (once in 1974 and again in 1977).
So who’s on top of that list? The pitcher who has walked the most batters in a season is surprisingly a Hall of Famer. His name is Amos Rusie and I think he might be the Nolan Ryan of the 1800s.
Amos has an extremely interesting story, according to his Wikipedia page. First, he had a great nickname: “The Hoosier Thunderbolt" (easily up there with my all-time favorites!) Another fantastic name was the semi-pro team he played for: The Sturm Avenue Never Sweats. Amazing!
Rusie threw very hard but, like Ryan, had control issues. For five straight years, he walked more than 200 batters including a whopping 289 in 1890. To go along with all those walks were a whole lot of strikeouts. He surpassed 300 three times and led the league five times. He also won baseball's Triple Crown in 1894 with 36 wins, a 2.78 ERA and 200 strikeouts. He also completed 45 of the 50 games he started that year. His fastball was a catalyst for officials to move the mound back for the 1893 season from 55 feet, 6 inches to 60 feet, 6 inches. He once hit another Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings with a pitch that put him in a coma for four days. He was a scary guy to face.
More facts about Rusie ... he was once traded for Christy Mathewson. That didn’t work out well as Rusie was way past his prime and didn’t win a game. Mathewson went on to become one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He also had a drink named after him and a book: “Secrets of Amos Rusie, The World's Greatest Pitcher, How He Obtained His Incredible Speed on Balls.” When he held out on a dispute with his owner in 1896, the press turned against the owners and fans boycotted until a compromise was made.
Rusie did not have the longevity Ryan had, but look at their stats side by side. Pay special attention to Ryan’s 1972-1979 seasons. They sure do look a lot alike. They even started their careers young; Ryan when he was 19 and Rusie when he was 17. In those years, Ryan led the league in lowest hits per 9 innings five times, Rusie did it four times.
Truly remarkable and a rabbit hole I am so glad I went down.