Donie Bush

From BR Bullpen


Owen Joseph Bush

  • Bats Both, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 6", Weight 140 lb.

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

"One day after I had struck out, I asked Eddie Killian what kind of ball I swung at and missed. Killian said it was a donie ball. I never learned what a donie ball was, but the Tigers started calling me Donie and the name just stuck." - from Donie Bush's obituary, The Sporting News, April 15, 1972


Owen "Donie" Bush was the long-time shortstop for the Detroit Tigers whose career was overlapped by the Ty Cobb years. He was an outstanding defensive player and an excellent leadoff hitter but his talents were not fully recognized while he was playing.

Bush was born and grew up in Indianapolis but left his family while still a teenager to play professional baseball. His first job was in the baseball boondocks, with Sault Ste. Marie in the Copper Country Soo League in 1905. By 1907, he was closer to home and starring at shortstop for the South Bend Greens of the Central League, batting .279 and drawing raves for his defensive play. After the season, Frank Navin, minority owner at South Bend and principal owner of the American League's Detroit Tigers sold Bush's contract to the Indianapolis Indians while retaining first option for his services for the Tigers. This provision came in handy when the Bengals' regular shortstop, Charley O'Leary went down with an injury late in the 1908 season with the Tigers smack in the middle of a pennant race.

Donie made his debut as a 20-year-old and was the regular at short for the Tigers for a dozen seasons. He hit .294 during the last days of the 1908 pennant race as the Tigers finished in first place, but he was called up too late to be eligible to play in the World Series and could only watch the Tigers lose to the Chicago Cubs from the sidelines. In 1909, he led the AL in assists, with 567, and runs scored, with 115, drew 88 walks and hit 52 sacrifices, the fourth highest total in major league history. He hit .273 with an OBP of .380. The Tigers repeated as champions and, this time, Bush got to play in the World Series, batting .318 as Detroit lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

He drew copious walks, leading the junior circuit five times between 1909 and 1914 with a personal best of 117 in 1912. He also stole lots of bases, swiping more than 30 eight times in his career. Additionally he scored at least 90 runs eight times, leading the AL a second time with 112 in 1917. In 1914, he tied a major league record that still stands with 425 putouts at shortstop. He was consistently among the league leaders in all fielding categories, showing tremendous range. Still, he was under appreciated because, for all his times on base and runs scored, his best weapon was drawing walks, a skill that was not held in high regard, and his forte was scoring and not driving in runs.

After the 1921 season, Bush moved to the Washington Senators and became player/manager of the club in 1923. The team improved from 6th to 4th under his guidance, but he was not retained as skipper for 1924 as the team went on to win its only World Championship under player-manager Bucky Harris. In sixteen seasons, Donie racked up 1,804 hits with 1,158 walks, good for a .356 OBP playing predominantly in a deadball era. Based on the similarity scores method, there are three Hall of Fame players on the list of the ten most similar players to Bush (Johnny Evers, Dave Bancroft and Miller Huggins), all of whom were infield contemporaries.

After his big league playing days ended, he returned to his hometown and managed the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association from 1924 to 1926. He returned to the majors as skipper of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1927 to 1929, reaching the World Series that first season, when the team was swept by the New York Yankees, considered by many to be the greatest team in baseball history. In Pittsburgh he got into a famous feud with star outfielder Kiki Cuyler, benching him for the last part of the 1927 season for failing to play hard, the benching extending to the World Series. Cuyler was traded to the Chicago Cubs after the season and Bush remained at the helm for two more years, but the Pirates regressed and he was fired partway through the 1929 season.

Bush managed the Chicago White Sox in 1930 and 1931 with little success. After leading the minor league Minneapolis Millers to a championship in 1932, he became manager of the talent-starved 1933 Cincinnati Reds. Bush returned to the Millers from 1934 to 1938 and, during that time, managed a young Ted Williams, who would later state that Bush was one of the most positive influences on his young career. He also led the Louisville Colonels in 1939.

Bush returned to his hometown in 1941 and became co-owner of the Indianapolis Indians. He ran the team until it was sold to the Cleveland Indians in 1952 and also managed the club again in 1943. The team's ballpark was renamed Bush Stadium in his honor in 1967 and he was known in town as "Mr. Baseball". He scouted for a spell for the Boston Red Sox from 1953 to 1955 and the White Sox from 1969 until his death in 1972. He was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL Runs Scored Leader (1917)
  • 5-time AL Bases on Balls Leader (1909-1912 & 1914)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 4 (1909, 1911, 1912 & 1917)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1909)
  • NL Pennants: 1 (1927)

Preceded by
Clyde Milan
Washington Senators Manager
Succeeded by
Bucky Harris
Preceded by
Bill McKechnie
Pittsburgh Pirates Manager
Succeeded by
Jewel Ens
Preceded by
Lena Blackburne
Chicago White Sox Manager
Succeeded by
Lew Fonseca
Preceded by
Dan Howley
Cincinnati Reds Manager
Succeeded by
Bob O'Farrell

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1923 Washington Senators American League 75-78 4th Washington Senators
1924 Indianapolis Indians American Association 92-74 2nd none
1925 Indianapolis Indians American Association 92-74 2nd none
1926 Indianapolis Indians American Association 94-71 2nd none
1927 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 94-60 1st Pittsburgh Pirates Lost World Series
1928 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 85-67 4th Pittsburgh Pirates
1929 Pittsburgh Pirates National League 67-51 -- Pittsburgh Pirates replaced by Jewel Ens on August 28
1930 Chicago White Sox American League 62-92 7th Chicago White Sox
1931 Chicago White Sox American League 56-97 8th Chicago White Sox
1932 Minneapolis Millers American Association 100-68 1st none League Champs
1933 Cincinnati Reds National League 58-94 8th Cincinnati Reds
1934 Minneapolis Millers American Association 85-64 1st none Lost League Finals
1935 Minneapolis Millers American Association 91-63 1st none League Champs
1936 Minneapolis Millers American Association 78-76 5th Boston Red Sox
1937 Minneapolis Millers American Association 87-67 3rd Boston Red Sox Lost in 1st round
1938 Minneapolis Millers American Association 78-74 6th Boston Red Sox
1939 Louisville Colonels American Association 14-25 -- Boston Red Sox replaced by Bill Burwell (61-53) on May 31
1943 Indianapolis Indians American Association 85-67 2nd none Lost League Finals
1944 Indianapolis Indians American Association 2-12 -- none replaced by Bob Logan (0-2) on May 9

Records Held[edit]

  • Sacrifice hits, switch hitter, career, 337
  • Triple plays, career, 9 (tied)
  • Triple plays, shortstop, career, 9
  • Putouts, shortstop, season, 425, 1914 (tied)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jim Moyes: "Owen Joseph 'Donie' Bush", in David Jones, ed.: Deadball Stars of the American League, SABR, Potomac Books, Inc., Dulles, VA, 2006, pp. 559-560.

Related Sites[edit]