Leslie Ambrose “Bullet Joe” Bush was a former pitcher for the Sox, among quite a few other teams. The right hander was born on November 27, 1892 and spent four seasons with the Sox from 1918-1921.
Bush was one of seven children out of Gull River Minnesota and was a star athlete from the get go excelling in both football and baseball in high school. In fact, as a child the young pitcher could often be seen throwing rotten apples when he couldn’t find a partner to play catch with.
If that’s not something out of The Natural then I don’t know what is.
Bush broke in with the local town team as a pitcher at the age of 17 and from an early age set himself apart as a hard thrower. While fastballs ranging in the 90s nowadays are common place, the time Bush lived was very different and though we can’t say for sure how hard he threw, accounts often record that he threw so hard he grunted with every pitch and regularly knocked the gloves off those he threw to. He was also credited with inventing the forkball as his curve began to hurt his arm.
Bush broke into the MLB with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1912 at the age of 19and spent the first six years of his career there. He quickly excelled as he finished his time in Philly with a 63-75 record alongside a 3.13 ERA, most notable though was his World Series win at the age of 20 when he tossed 10 shut out innings against the New York Giants. While the Phillies had some success in the early 1910s they quickly found themselves strapped for cash and sold Bush to the Red Sox in order to even out their roster. The Sox gleefully added Bush to their already-stacked rotation, handing them an easy World Series win in 1918.
While Bush was an instant hit, he developed arm trouble in 1919 causing many to wonder if he was washed up and lost his mojo; the hard throwing righty rebounded though to pitch the 1920 season featuring his new forkball–allowing him to ease off his curve and toss 243 innings that season. You know the story with the Sox though, after the 1918 season they sold off their best players and were mired in mediocrity, eventually trading Bush and a few others to the Yankees after the 1921 season (because, reasons).
Bush, ecstatic, joined a powerhouse team in New York that went to the playoffs twice during his three years there, winning the World Series once. In his first season with the Bronx Bombers he went 26-7, coming in fourth in MVP voting.
Bush bounced around quite a bit after leaving the Sox, in fact he spent his career with seven MLB teams and several amateur teams. After playing in New York he went to the St. Louis Browns, then an amateur team in Massachusetts (tossing a shutout against a team in Worcester BTW!) before making his return to the bigs with the Pirates. After two seasons in Pittsburgh he joined his old nemesis, the New York Giants, for a season before finishing his career in Philly where it began at the age of 35.
Bush finished his time in the MLB with a career record of 196-184 alongside a 3.51 ERA–good enough to be remembered as a solid pitcher but sadly, not good enough to be immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Off the field Bush was a man of many talents, appearing in several Vaudevill skits, singing, and even dabbling in ventriloquism. After baseball Bush settled down in Florida with his wife where he remained active in his community. He passed away in 1974 at the age of 81.