I chose this photo -- Rush's 1955 Bowman baseball card -- to illustrate this profile, because it is so archetypical of the 1950's. First, with television sweeping the nation, Bowman decided to put its '55 card series in a "TV frame", to keep up with the "cool crowd". Looking at it 50 years later, it just looks dated. The pose is also dated -- in those days, card companies, trying to get player photos taken in a hurry, often asked pitchers to pose as if they had just pitched. Rush looks, well, "rushed", in this pose, with no baseball in sight.
The rest of this profile is by BCB reader cubbiejulie, who, I should tell you, pulled a prank on me when emailing her article. At first she sent me writing taken from this Wikipedia entry on Bobby Rush. You know, the Congressman:
After trying to convince me that she was totally serious, she sent me the profile below.
Gotcha, Julie. I know you were going to tell this story, but I beat you to it!
There are certain, unassailable truths that every Cubs fan must come to grips with. One of these unfortunate laws that have been foist upon Cubdom by the baseball gods is that we will be forced to watch some really good players on some really horrible teams. Another is that any player traded away by the Cubs will immediately render his new team a playoff contender and will probably help them win the pennant (see e.g., Neifi Perez). Still another is that most Cubs players with any kind of longevity will be possessed of some really great stats, some really horrible stats, and some really weird stats.
Case in point, former Cubs pitcher Bob "Big Bob" Rush. Who was Bob Rush, you ask? I didn't know either. Oh sure, I'd heard of him, but for me, he was just one of the many faceless, pennant-less former Cubs who are talked about by old people and whose names clog up the annals of Cubs history. After all, Bob Rush pitched his last game more than 13 years before I was born. But you can learn all kinds of things on Google. For example, did you know that Rush was a Sagittarius? Or that he graduated from my alma mater, Indiana University? Or that he once challenged Pee Wee Reese to a potato sack race? Okay, I made that last one up.
But the more I began to learn about Bob Rush, the more it occurred to me that Bob Rush IS the ghost of Cubs past, present, and, unfortunately, probably the future. His story IS the Cubs' story. A talented pitcher who was forced to pitch on some really terrible teams and ultimately had to go somewhere else to grab the brass ring.
Born in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1925, Rush was signed as an undrafted amateur free agent by the Cubs in 1947 onto a team that included Andy Pafko and Phil Cavaretta. A 22 year-old Rush made his major-league debut April 22, 1948, losing to Pittsburgh 3-0. The 6'4" righty went 5-11 that year, but finished with a respectable ERA of 3.92. In 1949 through 1951, Rush finished with ERAs of 4.07, 3.71, and 3.83, respectively.
In 1950, in typical Cub fashion, Rush gave up 261 hits, 105 earned runs, and had a league-leading 20 losses. He was also chosen for the National League All-Star team that year. Go figure.
The good stats:
Let's take a look at 1952, which was far and away the best year of Rush's 13-year major league career. That year, Rush went 17-13 and finished with a sparkling ERA of 2.70, including a 7-game win streak and 3 shutouts. Even more impressive, every single one of Rush's wins in 1952 was a complete game. Rush was also the winning pitcher that year for the National League All-Star team. On May 30, 1952, Rush two-hit the Reds in front of 36,000 at Wrigley, walking none and striking out ten. It was Rush's 29th consecutive scoreless inning. And, in what can only been seen as one of the great accomplishments in Cubs pitching history, in 1954 Rush halted Cards' second baseman Red Schoendienst's hitting streak, the longest of that season, at 28 games.
The bad stats:
Unfortunately for Rush, the 1952 team was the only Cubs team he would play on that would go on to have a .500 record. Though he would go on to eight more years in the majors, he was never able to replicate the success he had in 1952. During his next five years with the Cubs, Rush's ERA hovered between 3.19 and 4.54. Rush had a brief resurgence in 1956, when he won 13 games and finished with an ERA of 3.19. Unfortunately, the 1956 Cubs, despite the emergence of their young All-Star, Ernie Banks, lost 94 games and finished eighth in the National League.
In 1957, after spending 10 years with the Cubs, Rush was traded to the Milwaukee Braves for catcher Sammy Taylor and pitcher Taylor Phillips. As preordained by the gods, Rush was integral in helping the Braves win the pennant in 1958, posting a 10-6 record, and starting one of the World Series games against the Yankees.
The weird stat:
On April 29, 1959, Reds pitcher Willard Schmidt was hit by a pitch TWICE in the same inning, once by Braves pitcher Lew Burdette and once by our guy, Bob Rush.
In a cruel twist of fate, Rush finished his career with the Chicago White Sox, who purchased his contract from the Braves in June of 1960. Demonstrating typical White Sox logic, they released Rush in August of that year, re-signed him as a free agent in September, and released him for good in November. Rush was done as a major-leaguer, but not before pitching in 417 games and winning 127 of them, despite playing on some of the worst Cubs teams of all time for the first 10 years of his career.
Bob Rush survives to this day, and is presumably living in relative anonymity somewhere, despite an uncanny resemblance, in the waning years of his career, to the late actor J.T. Walsh :
Rush is one of those athletes who immediately calls to mind what could have been. What could have been had he been on a better team, had more run support, was surrounded by a better supporting cast. A pretty good pitcher who was forced to pitch on some really terrible teams. In 8 of his 10 seasons with the Cubs, the team finished last or second to last in the National League. Like so many Cubs before and after him, Rush had to take his talents to another team before getting his just reward: the 1958 National League Pennant.
If, God willing, "next year" ever does arrive, the Cubs will be wining it not just for their current team and their throngs of beleaguered fans, but for all those Cubs players who deserved to win in Chicago, not the least of which is Bob Rush.