“I’ll take 19th Century Baseball for $200 Alex.”
“This Hall of Fame outfielder cracked the first hit in the National League, was nicknamed “Orator Jim” and built a house in Bridgeport Connecticut that’s still standing.”
If Jeopardy wants to use that one, they better hurry. Developers in Bridgeport have a bulldozer aimed at the property O’Rourke built in 1891. The Victorian house sits by itself on a patch of land on Steel Point Peninsula. Located on the east side of Bridgeport, the area is set for mixed-use development.
In an excellent article in this past Friday’s Washington Post, Les Carpenter details the story. A year after he hit .360 in the Players League, O’Rourke built the house. He lived there until he died in 1919.
Bernard Crowley, a long time SABR member and author of O’Rourke’s biography (SABR, Baseball’s First Stars), is working with Michael Bielawa to save the house. The two citizens of Bridgeport formed The First Hit, a non-profit organization “dedicated to preserving the memory of James H. O’Rourke, Bridgeport’s only Baseball Hall Of Fame member.” The website has information on the cause and contains Crowley’s excellent bio on O’Rourke.
O’Rourke was an excellent player with a 134 Adjusted OPS. He played for nine pennant winners, including the Giants in 1888 and 1889. In addition to his 2643 ML hits (this includes four seasons in the N.A.), he collected 1158 with Bridgeport of the Connecticut League for a total of 3801.