Inductee — Owen Joseph Bush

bush1_4Owen Joseph Bush

Class of 1979

Birthplace: Indianapolis, IN




BUSH, Owen Joseph (“Donie,” “Ownie”) – born Oct. 8, 1887, Indianapolis; died March 28, 1972, Indianapolis. Detroit (AL) 1908-1921, Washington (AL) 1921-1923. SS, 3B, 2B. 1,946g, 7,210ab, 9hr, .250. MGR, Washington (AL) 1923, Pittsburgh (NL) 1927-1929, Chicago (AL) 1930-1931, Cincinnati (NL) 1933 (497-539). Debuted Sept. 18, 1908. 5-6, 140, BB, TR.

Nearly seven decades in organized ball as a shortstop, manager, official and scout earned Donie Bush the title of “Mr. Baseball” in Indianapolis. In 1967 the long-time home of the American Association’s Indianapolis Indians, Victory Field, was renamed Bush Stadium in his honor.

Bush grew up on the east side of Indianapolis and played semi-pro ball for area teams. His professional career began in 1905 with Sault Ste. Marie (Copper Country Soo). After a good year with South Bend (Central) in 1907, the Detroit Tigers acquired Bush’s contract and assigned him to Indianapolis. Bush helped the Indians finish first in 1908. By mid-September he was playing in Detroit.

Bush became Detroit’s starting shortstop the following year and held the job for 13 seasons. He helped the Tigers win the 1909 AL pennant. Batting in front of Ty Cobb for much of his career, Bush led the league in bases on balls five times. Bush was also a fine base runner and a superb fielder with excellent range. Some consider him the greatest shortstop in Tiger history.

The Tigers sent Bush to Washington in 1921. Two years later he became the Senators’ player-manager. Released after a fourth-place finish, Bush returned to Indianapolis and managed the Indians from 1924-1926. In 1927 he took over as manager of the Pirates and led Pittsburgh to the NL pennant. The Pirates lost the World Series in four games to one of the greatest New York Yankee teams of all time.

Dismissed by the Pirates in 1929, Bush managed the Chicago White Sox in 1930-1931 and returned to the National League in 1933 as skipper of the Cincinnati Reds. He also managed Minneapolis in 1932 and again from 1934-1938. In 1939 he was manager and part owner of another American Association squad, the Louisville Colonels.

After the 1940 season Bush and his partner, Indianapolis banker Frank McKinney, sold the franchise. The following year Bush and McKinney purchased the Indianapolis Indians. Bush served as team president and general manager, and took over as field boss for 1943 and part of 1944.

The Cleveland Indians purchased the Indianapolis franchise in 1951. Four years later the team was again on the market and in danger of being moved to another city. Bush, who’d been a scout for the Boston Red Sox from 1953-1955, helped arrange for the Indians to become a community-owned team. With the franchise remaining in Indianapolis, Bush served as president and general manager. At baseball’s 1963 winter meetings, major league executives named him “King of Baseball.”

Bush retired from the Indians in 1969. During spring training in 1972 he was scouting in Florida for the White Sox when he became ill. Bush returned to Indianapolis, where he died three weeks later at age 84. In 1979 Bush was one of the original 16 members of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame. The Indianapolis Oldtimers’ man-of-the-year award is named for him.

From The Encyclopedia of Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players, copyright (c) 2007 by Pete Cava. Reproduced with the author’s permission.