- 3B, C, SS, 1B, OF, P, 2B
- Orator Jim
- September 1, 1850
- 5' 8"
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-26-1872 with MID
- Hall of Fame:
James Henry O'Rourke (September 1, 1850 - January 8, 1919). O'Rourke batted .300 or better in 13 of his 22 years in the National Association, National League, and Players' League, and was a member of seven championship clubs - five of them in Boston during the 1870s. He was the first man to gain a hit in National League history (April 22, 1876). From 1881 to 1884 he was player-manager for Buffalo (NL). He managed in the minors, served as president of the Connecticut League and Eastern Association, and returned to the Giants to catch one game on September 22, 1904, at age 52 the oldest man to complete a major league game. Because of his verbosity, players and umpires called him "Orator Jim." One obituary eulogized, "Words of great length and thunderous sound simply flowed out of his mouth." His son, Queenie O'Rourke, was a utility man for the Highlanders (Yankees) in 1908.
For the period 1876–1892, he ranks behind only Cap Anson in career major league games played (1644), hits (2146), at-bats (6884), doubles (392) and total bases (2936), and behind only Harry Stovey in runs scored (1370). (Stovey was a younger player. Anson played five seasons and O'Rourke four prior to 1876.)
He was born in East Bridgeport, Connecticut. On April 22, 1876, he had the first base hit in National League history. After leaving the major leagues following the 1893 season he continued to play in the minor leagues until he was over 50 years old. In he made a final appearance with the New York Giants under manager and friend John McGraw, becoming at age 54 the oldest player ever to appear in the National League, and the oldest player to hit safely in a major league game. He returned to the minors as president of the Connecticut League, and in returned to the field to catch a complete minor league game at the age of 60.
He graduated from Yale Law School (a non-graduate degree at the time), practicing law in Bridgeport between early playing stints, and earning the nickname "Orator Jim" because of his verbosity on the field, his intellect, and his degree—uncommon in a game regarded as a rough immigrant sport at the time.C.J. Hughes, Famous and Forgotten: A Baseball Legend From Bridgeport, New York Times (Aug. 8, 2004) Legend has it that O'Rourke, a child of Irish immigrants, was asked to drop the "O'" from his last name when he signed a contract with Boston and its Protestant backers, but refused, saying "I would rather die than give up my father's name. A million dollars would not tempt me."Lawrence Baldassaro and Richard A. Johnson, eds., The American Game: Baseball and Ethnicity (S. Ill. Univ. Press 2002), pp.61-62 As an executive, O'Rourke later hired the first African American minor league baseball player in history.Bridgeport Banner, A Fitting Tribute for Orator Jim (Jun. 17, 2009) http://bridgeportbanner.typepad.com/bridgeport/2009/06/a-fitting-tribute-for-orator-jim.html
O'Rourke died of pneumonia at age 68 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945 as one of the earliest inductees from the 19th century. His older brother John O'Rourke and his son James "Queenie" O'Rourke also played in the majors.
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