Little Donie Bush was the spark in Cobb-led Tiger lineups of the Deadball Era
Home " Little Donie Bush was the spark of the Cobb-led Tiger rosters during the Deadball era Donie Bush, vintage 1915. How many years does it take to be in the game to win the title of "King of Baseball"? For Owen Bush, it took almost sixty years. By this time, Indy's little guy had […]

Donie Bush of the Detroit Tigers

Donie Bush, vintage 1915.

How many years does it take to be in the game to win the title of "King of Baseball"? For Owen Bush, it took almost sixty years. By this time, Indy's little guy had done almost every job you could do in professional baseball.

No one called Bush, Owen, which was his first name. They called him "Ownie" in Indianapolis at the end of the 19th century, when Bush was growing up in a fatherless family. The eldest, Mr. Bush, died when Owen was a child, and he and his siblings struggled in the Irish-American neighborhoods of eastern Indianapolis. Maybe he didn't make it into the dinner queue because Ownie was barely 5ft 6in tall. But he was fast and a good athlete.

Donie Bush was the best player found and signed directly by Frank Navin, who held control of the Detroit Tigers for more than twenty years. Navin took an interest in the Indianapolis pro team and received advice on pesky little Bush, who was playing as an infielder in the city that rivaled Detroit for automotive supremacy in the first. decade of the twentieth century.

A small guy with narrow shoulders and short legs, Bush defied the odds and outscored players with better pedigrees as he progressed through the pro ranks, ultimately winning a chance with the Tigers in September 1908. When Detroit took over bought his contract, a clerical error caused his first name to be listed as Donie (pronounced DOE-KNEE) instead of Ownie, and as a result a baseball alias was created.

Bush joined a team involved in a tight pennant race, and he proved to be important, running the bases as if he was Ty Cobb's little brother. Detroit won the pennant but a steady shortstop Charley o'leary came back from an injury and was able to play in the World Series. Bush took this personally and vowed never to be beaten unemployed again. The following year, he began a 13-year stranglehold on his work in the booming Motor City.

When the larger offensive lineups are discussed, the Deadball-era Detroit Tigers are often understaffed. They had one of the greatest offensive weapons in baseball history in the middle of their roster, Ty Cobb. Each season, he did his Ty Cobb things, like stealing 85 goals, getting 225 hits and leading the league in points and runs slapped while hitting near .385 or .390. Then there was Sam Crawford, the brooding right fielder who was one of the best lazy people of the first 25 years of the 20th century, hitting over 300 triples. Detroit had a left-back defender named Bobby Veach, whom hardly anyone remembers, but who was very good. If you want a comp for Veach at home, he looked a lot like Fred Lynn or David Justice: a powerful left-handed hitter who could hit a homerun, drive the ball and produce runs. Cobb, Crawford and Veach are one of the greatest outdoor fields of all time, even if they weren't friends.

At the top of the pecking order, at the base in front of Detroit's Big Three Boppers, was little Bush, all 140 pounds from him. At 5'5 and a few changes, Bush crouched down so his strike zone was small, and he had a keen eye, leading the league five times in steps and averaging 99 steps in 154 games. He scored an average of 111 points per. He was an ideal starting man.

This Detroit team, formed from the quartet of the three forwards and Bush, compares well to the Big Red Machine of the 1970s for points. Later in the 1910s, they added Harry Heilmann, four-time batting champion. Here's how the Tigers ranked in points scored in the American League during the Bush / Cobb et al period:

1909 (1st), 1910 (1st), 1911 (2nd), 1912 (3rd), 1913 (3rd), 1914 (2nd), 1915 (1st), 1916 (1st), 1917 (2nd), 1918 (4th), 1919 (3rd).

In 1915, the Tigers had 163 points better than the league average, or more than a full point higher than any other team. This season, Bush has had a year of decline, hitting just .228, but marching 118 times and stealing 35 goals, still managing to score 99 points. The three forwards have an average of 35 doubles, 14 triples and 108 RBIs. Detroit had a +181 point differential and won 100 games, but finished second behind the Red Sox, who had a real pitching staff.

Bush has good defensive stats. He still holds the record for single-season shortstop assists, but that's largely because the Tigers had a lot of pitchers on the ground and their indoor turf was tall enough to hide a small child. . His double play stats are poor and Bush made a lot of mistakes, and a lot of them were throwing mistakes, compared to others at his position. His arm, hanging from those unimpressive shoulders, was a bit weak, and his throws too often hit the ground outside first base.

Bush's playing career could have continued as a third baseman, but he accepted the revolving door job as Senators manager. He wasn't doing well, but Bush was an obedient old ball player who was respected by the dusty old men guarding the gates to the game. He landed in Pittsburgh where he won a pennant with a talented team, truly like nothing more than a push button manager. He almost spoiled this team, proved his mediocrity in the following seasons and was fired after alienating his players. The White Sox and Reds gave him a chance in the dugout, but Bush was a crisp manager, one of those "in my day, we played the game well" guys. His players never liked him much and he managed his last big league game in 1933. He then coached teenager Ted Williams in the minor leagues, helping the tall, thin hitter with his approach to the plate.

In all, Donie Bush led the Washington Senators (1923), the Indianapolis Indians (1924–26, 1943–44), the Pittsburgh Pirates (1927–29), the Chicago White Sox (1930–31) , the Cincinnati Reds (1933), the Minneapolis Millers (1932, 1934–38) and Louisville Colonels (1939). His 1927 Pirates won the National League pennant and lost to the famous Yankees "Murderers' Row" in the World Series. Bush was also a co-owner of the Louisville Colonels (1938-1940) and Indianapolis Indians (1941-1952), President of the Indians (1941-52, 1956-1969) and scout of the Boston Red Sox (1953- 55).

In 1963, 55 years after he first played with Ty Cobb, Bush was at the annual winter MLB meetings when league officials surprised him with a special award called "The King of Baseball". . Bush, looking even smaller after the years spent on him, wiped a tear as he accepted a plaque for his decades of dedication to the game.

“Little Ownie” was remembered by the people of his hometown, and in 1967 the stadium the Indianapolis Indians played in was renamed Victory Field at Bush Stadium in his honor. It remained in service for an additional three decades.

In 1972, at age 84, Bush was working as a Boy Scout for the Chicago White Sox. Still making a living from baseball. He fell ill during spring training in Florida and died three weeks later after returning home to Indianapolis. The former spark plug of the great Detroit deadball-era teams was posthumously elected to the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 and is still known as "Mr. Baseball ”in Indianapolis.

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While we all certainly enjoy watching something come to fruition, there is something extra special about being involved in the revitalization of something as well. Over the years, we’ve been blessed to be involved in a number of these genres of projects ranging from local community centres and schools all the way to nationally recognized institutions such as Queen’s University.

We’ve been granted access to stripped out gymnasiums and open athletic fields to design and eventually install state-of-the-art athletic equipment and infrastructure. From simple bleachers, to basketball systems to complete grandstands designed to accommodate tens of thousands of fans, these projects have and always will hold a special place in our hearts.

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