Orator O’Rourke

The Life of a Baseball Radical


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About the Book

As a player, manager, team captain, umpire, owner and league president, Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke (1851–1918) spoke for the players in the emerging game of baseball. O’Rourke’s career paralleled the rise of the game from a regional sport with few strategies to the national pastime. Nicknamed “Orator” for his booming voice and his championing of the rights of professional athletes, he was a driving force in making the sport a profession, bringing respectability to the role of professional baseball player.
From contemporary sources, O’Rourke’s own correspondence, and player files available through the National Baseball Library, a rounded portrait of Jim O’Rourke emerges. Quick to speak his mind, the outfielder played on nine pennant-winning teams, but his playing career was overshadowed by his work in organizing baseball’s first union. After his playing days ended, O’Rourke attempted to establish the Connecticut League, becoming the circuit’s president, secretary, and treasury. Though the league failed to fully materialize, his Bridgeport Victors did play several games and were one of the few racially integrated teams—a fact emblematic of O’Rourke’s efforts to change the national pastime. In those efforts, he attempted to wrest control of the game from the owners and empower the players. A carefully researched account of O’Rourke’s life and career, this biography also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the growth of the national pastime from the Civil War through the deadball era.

About the Author(s)

SABR member Mike Roer is the president of a software company in Fairfield, Connecticut. He lives in Fairfield.

Bibliographic Details

Mike Roer
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 342
Bibliographic Info: 88 photos, tables, appendices, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2355-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Prologue      5

1. Beginnings      7

2. Jim Joins the Club (1866–1871)      11

3. Middletown Mansfields (1872)      27

4. Boston Red Stockings (1873)      33

5. The Red Stockings in Great Britain (1874)      40

6. The Tools of Ignorance (1875)      51

7. Boston Red Caps (1876–1878)      60

8. Providence Grays (1879)      74

9. Return to the Boston Red Caps (1880)      83

10. Buffalo Bisons (1881–1883)      90

11. John O’Rourke Joins the Mets (1883)      106

12. National League Batting Champion (1884)      108

13. New York Giants (1885–1887)      117

14. O’Rourke at Yale Law School (1885–1887)      124

15. The Brotherhood (1886–1887)      128

16. The Color Line (1887)      138

17. Orations (1888)      141

18. The Giants Win the Pennant (1888)      145

19. The Baseball War (1889)      152

20. The World’s Series (1889)      162

21. Players’ League Giants (1890)      169

22. Return to National League Giants (1891–1892)      187

23. Washington Senators (1893)      191

24. National League Umpire (1894)      195

25. Bridgeport Victors (1895–1897)      203

26. New Home for the Bridgeports (1898–1900)      215

27. Defending the Minor Leagues (1900–1903)      220

28. The Bridgeport Orators (1903–1907)      231

29. The NAPBL (1907)      237

30. Hanging Up the Glove (1908–1910)      241

31. Baseball’s Elder Statesman (1911–1913)      248

32. The New England Baseball War (1913–1919)      253

33. The Baseball Wars: A Look Back      271

34. Epilogue      273

Appendix A: Jim O’Rourke’s Professional Statistics      277

Appendix B: Evolution of the Rules of Baseball      279

Appendix C: The Bat      295

Appendix D: The Ball      296

Notes      300

Bibliography      325

Index      331

Book Reviews & Awards

“thoroughly researched…superb”—Sports Collectors Digest; “those of us who know nineteenth-century baseball history well can still learn a lot from Orator O’Rourke. …[A] life worth knowing about and a book worth reading”—Nine; “of great interest…prodigiously researched”—Edward Achorn, Providence Journal; “marvelously researched and well written. The reader sees clearly that baseball, as always, reflects the spirit of its time.”—Larry Levine, Quinnipiac University.