Amos Rusie Cut Signature: Extraordinary Hall of Fame Signature Rarity

Sold For: $9,480

Auction Year: 2012 spring

Lot: 782

Item Year: 1910

Category: Autographed Baseballs/Flats/Photos

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Exceedingly rare signature example of Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie. The signature of Amos Rusie is one of the most elusive of all Hall of Fame players and one that is normally absent from even the most advanced collections. While we have no way of knowing exactly how many authentic Amos Rusie signatures have survived, we would estimate that there are probably fewer than ten known examples. This is the first Rusie signature we have ever offered and it appears in a most ideal format: a cut section of an American Kennel Club registration form. Rusie has beautifully scripted his name and address in black fountain pen (grading "10") on the appropriate lines: "Amos Rusie/791 St. Nicholas Ave./New York City." (An interesting note with reference to the Kennel Club association: It is known that Rusie owned dogs, and we have seen photos of him taken during his retirement days picturing him with his dogs at his side.) This Rusie signature has long been known and revered by Hall of Fame signature scholars, and in fact, we have learned, is one of the few known-to-be-authentic exemplars used by many authenticators, including JSA. This Rusie signature originates from the legendary collection of Bob Duval, who was one of the hobby's earliest and most prolific autograph collectors. Duval, who began collecting in the 1940s, was known for the extensiveness of his collection and this piece was one of its many highlights. After he obtained it, Duval mounted it onto a plain white index card bearing Rusie's typewritten name and date of death ("12-6-42"). The year "1889" is typewritten in the top right corner of the card and denotes Rusie's major league debut.
Nicknamed “The Hoosier Thunderbolt,” Amos Rusie was certainly the fastest pitcher of his day and many, including Connie Mack and John McGraw, considered him to be the fastest pitcher who ever lived. Rusie was so fast that the League had to change the pitching distance from fifty feet to sixty feet, six inches in order to give batters a chance against him. Although his pitching career was brief, it was nothing short of spectacular. Rusie won over 30 games in four consecutive years and led the League in strikeouts on five separate occasions. In 1898 Rusie, at the age of twenty-seven, suffered an arm injury from which he was unable to recover. Despite the injury and the fact that he missed two seasons while trying to recuperate, Rusie’s reputation was such that in 1901 the Reds traded Christy Mathewson to the Giants in exchange for him, bum arm and all. Rusie appeared in only three games with the Reds before retiring, while Mathewson went on to win 373 games over the next sixteen years. In just nine full seasons Rusie won 246 games and finished his career with a 3.07 ERA. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977.
The fact that Rusie passed away in 1942, but wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame until 1977, is no doubt largely responsible for the extreme rarity of his signature today. Rusie only lived in New York City during the years he played with the Giants (1890-1898) and then later when he was hired by John McGraw to be the superintendent of the Polo Grounds (1921-1929). While we do not know exactly what year this form was filled out, it must date from one of those two periods, and we think it is a virtual certainty it dates to the later time frame. (The American Kennel Club was founded in 1884.) It is also interesting to note that the 791 St. Nicholas Ave. address is within walking distance (seven blocks) of where the old Polo Grounds used to be. This is an extraordinary Hall of Fame signature rarity and an exceptional Rusie signature in all respects. A worthy key addition to even the most advanced world-class Hall of Fame signature collection, it is also one that would be an ideal candidate for encapsulation and grading. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $9,480

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