- P, OF, 1B, SS, 2B
- Smiling Al, The Curveless Wonder
- September 5, 1872
- 200 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 8-15-1895 with PHI
Lewis Orth was born on September 9, 1872, in Tipton, Indiana. As a
child he played ball games, perfecting the art of hurling underhanded,
which he later used in the professional ranks. At the age of 21, Orth
attended DePauw University in Indiana, where he played on the baseball
team. The next year, he pitched for Lynchburg, where in 1895, he
attracted national attention when he won 28 games in less than a full
season. The Philadelphia Phillies signed him to a professional contract
on August 13, for $1,000, putting Orth on the mound immediately. Using
his underhand style, Orth won eight of nine decisons for Philadelphia, rallying them to a third place finish.
From 1896-1900, Orth won 14 or 15 games every year for the Phillies, and also earned playing time in the outfield. Orth was a good hitter — batting over .290 seven times in his 15-year career, and he exhibited fine speed on the basepaths. In 1901, using his fastball exclusively, Orth won 20 games for the Phillies. Following that success, Orth jumped to the Washington Senators in the fledgling American League in '02. But he never got on track in Washington, suffering a 32-44 record in a little over two years with the losing Senators. In July of 1904, Orth was dealt to the Highlanders for former twenty-game winner Long Tom Hughes and a reliever.
In New York, Orth met the the man who would have the largest impact on his career, teammate Jack Chesbro. A future Hall of Fame pitcher, Chesbro taught Orth how to throw a spitball, which gave him a second pitch to rely on. Finding success with his new pitch, Orth was soon using the spitter as much as possible, going 11-6 in his first partial season with the Highlanders. In 1905, Orth won 18 games, and the nest year he busted out with his career season — 27 wins and a 2.34 ERA.
Within few seasons, Orth was out of New York's rotation, but his lively bat kept him in the big leagues. In 1907, he batted .324 withs even extra-base hits and 13 RBI, and in 1908 he hit .290. In 1909, with younger men in the Highlanders' rotation, Orth retired early in the season and took a job managing in the minor leagues. After that, he served as an umpire in the Virginia League and the National League (from 1912-1917), and later as coach of several college teams, including Virginia Military Institute.