By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
65. Jim O’Rourke – Signed by the Bisons in 1881
The Buffalo Bisons got a bargain when they signed Jim O’Rourke to a contract. Not only was he one of the best players in baseball at the time, but he also served as the manager, traveling secretary and treasurer. O’Rourke even helped with the planning of a new stadium in Buffalo (Olympic Park)
“Orator Jim” (apparently the man could fill a conversation) first played pro ball in 1872 with the Middletown Mansfields. A year later he was a regular with the Boston Red Stockings , hitting .350. He stayed there when Boston joined the new National League in 1876. When that team essentially released him after the 1880 season, O’Rourke joined the Bisons.
O’Rourke was a tough taskmaster as a manager, especially since he didn’t smoke or drink. But the team played well for him during the next four years. O’Rourke’s best season was his last, when he hit .347 with 162 hits; both numbers led the league.
The versatile player, who fielded many different positions over the years, landed in New York with the Giants in 1885. He was still there in 1892, and played one more full season with Washington the following year. O’Rourke even caught a full game with the Giants in 1904 at the age of 53, becoming the oldest player in National League history to get a hit. O’Rourke went into the Hall of Fame in 1945.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)