|Born: September 1, 1850|
|Died: January 8, 1919 (aged 68)|
|April 26, 1872, for the Middletown Mansfields|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 22, 1904, for the New York Giants|
|Runs batted in||1,208|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Election Method||Veterans Committee|
James Henry O'Rourke (September 1, 1850 - January 8, 1919), nicknamed "Orator Jim", was an American professional baseball player in the National Association and Major League Baseball who played primarily as a left fielder. For the period 1876-1892, he ranks behind only Cap Anson in career major league games played (1,644), hits (2,146), at-bats (6,884), doubles (392) and total bases (2,936), and behind only Harry Stovey in runs scored (1,370) (Stovey was a younger player; Anson played five seasons and O'Rourke four prior to 1876.).
O'Rourke was born in East Bridgeport, Connecticut, and worked on his family's farm while playing youth league and semi-pro baseball. He began his professional career as a member of the Middletown Mansfields in 1872, joining the one-year-old National Association team as a catcher. The Mansfields were not a top-tier team, and folded in August, but O'Rourke had impressed other teams sufficiently enough to be offered a contract with the Boston Red Stockings, with whom he played until 1878. On April 22, 1876, O'Rourke had the first base hit in National League history.
He graduated from Yale Law School in 1887 with an LL.B., 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 law degree--uncommon in a game regarded as a rough immigrant sport at the time.
After leaving the major leagues following the 1893 season he continued to play in the minor leagues until he was over 50 years old. As an executive of the Bridgeport team in the Connecticut League, in 1895 O'Rourke hired the first African American minor league baseball player in history.
In 1904, 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. O'Rourke is one of only 29 players in baseball history to appear in Major League games in four decades.
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.
One legend concerning O'Rourke is that he was asked to drop the "O'" from his last name when he signed a contract with Boston and its Protestant backers. The son of Irish immigrants and the husband of a woman born in Ireland, O'Rourke refused, saying "I would rather die than give up my father's name. A million dollars would not tempt me."
Another legend about O'Rourke is that his signing by the Mansfields in 1872 was conditioned on the team finding someone to take over O'Rourke's chores on his parents' farm.
O'Rourke has made a brilliant record for himself as an outfielder, being an excellent judge of a ball, a swift runner, and making the most difficult running catches with the utmost ease and certainty. As a thrower, too, he stands pre-eminent, being credited with a throw of 365 feet, the next to the longest yet accomplished by any player.
In 1,999 games over 23 seasons, O'Rourke posted a .310 batting average (2,639-for-8,503) with 1,729 runs, 468 doubles, 149 triples, 62 home runs, 1,208 RBI, 229 stolen bases, 513 bases on balls, .352 on-base percentage and .422 slugging percentage.