A Dozen Things You Should Know About Jim O’Rourke

Jim O'Rourke

1. He was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on 1 September 1850.

2. He played semi-pro ball in Bridgeport, caught the eye of the newly formed Middletown Mansfields of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players and signed to catch and play shortstop in 1872. He did well, the team folded, and he went back to Bridgeport.

3. O’Rourke signed the next season with Boston of the National Association and moved to the outfield. He also caught, played first, and led the Association in home runs in 1874 and 1875.

4. With the collapse of the Association, he joined the new National League team in Boston in 1876. He is credited with getting the first hit in NL history, a single in the first inning.

5. In the 1870s and 1880s he led the NL in hits, home runs, walks, triples, and runs once each, and led the league in OBP twice.

6. With the New York Giants in the late 1880s he helped Monty Ward form the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players union, picked up a  law degree from Yale, was admitted to the Connecticut bar, and won two pennants. Both times the Giants won the 1880’s version of the World Series. O’Rourke hit .306 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 19 postseason games.

7. In 1890 he joined the New York team in the Player’s League. He did well, but the team finished third.

8. Back in the NL after the Player’s League folded he spent two more years with the Giants, then finished his  career with Washington.

9. After retiring he practiced law, spent half a season as an umpire, then formed a team in Connecticut that played independently. He played a handful of games, but mostly coached. He did hire Henry Herbert, a black outfielder. Herbert stayed with the team four seasons.

10. In 1896 O’Rourke formed a new league, the Naugatuck Valley League, in Connecticut. He played off and on through 1916.

11. In 1904, the Giants brought O’Rourke to the Polo Grounds where he played catcher for one game. He went 1-4 (a single) at age 53. He scored a run and the Giants won 7-5.

12. He died 7 January 1919 and was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1945.

O'Rourke's grave in Connecticut

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