Positions: Outfielder; Catcher
Teams: Boston Red Caps (Beaneaters), 1876-1878, 1880; Providence Grays, 1879; Buffalo Bisons, 1881-1884; New York Giants, 1885-1889, 1891-1892; New York Giants (PL), 1890;
Washington Senators, 1893
Manager: Buffalo Bisons, 1881-1884; Washington Senators, 1893
Managerial Record: 246-258
Jim O'Rourke was the first player
in major-league history to play
across four decades.
The most eloquent player of the 19th century, Jim O’Rourke was called “Orator,” and another O’Rourke (no relation) was dubbed “Voiceless Tim” because he lacked Jim’s eloquence.
A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut, James Henry O’Rourke (1852-1919) joined the Mansfields, an outstanding amateur team in the nearby community of Middletown, in 1867 although he had not yet turned age 15. When the Mansfields went professional in 1872 and entered the National Association, O’Rourke accompanied them after a club official found a replacement for him on the family farm.
The Mansfields folded after only one year, allowing O’Rourke to sign with the champion Boston Red Caps. He stayed with the club for six seasons, during which time they became more commonly known as the Red Stockings.
An attempt by Boston to deduct $20 from his pay to cover the cost of his uniform prompted O’Rourke to move to Providence in 1879. After hitting .351 to help spur the Grays to the National League pennant, O’Rourke returned to Boston for one last season in 1880 and then signed as player-manager of the Buffalo Bisons. Three years in the dual role convinced him to return to the playing ranks only.
O’Rourke signed with the New York Giants in 1885 and remained with them through the 1892 season with a year out to participate in the Players League experiment. After a single season as player-manager of the Washington Nationals, O’Rourke became part-owner, player, and manager of Bridgeport (Victor League) through 1908. Except for the final campaign, when he only managed the club, he remained an active player during that time -- and a catcher, no less. Because of his remarkable fitness for a man his age, O’Rourke was enlisted by Giants manager John McGraw to catch the entire game that clinched the 1904 pennant for New York. O’Rourke (age 52) went 1-for-4 and scored a run.
The 1904 appearance enabled O’Rourke to become the first player in major-league history to be active in four different decades. Oddly, although he played every position on the diamond during his career, he never excelled at any of them. The Orator was somewhat of a liability in the field but made up for it by being a reliable and productive hitter. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945.
Here are Jim O'Rourke's major league totals:
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