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O'Rourke Salary History

 1872   $500     MIDDLETOWN. A co-op club that paid players a percentage of the gate. The club folded before the season ended. This is an annualized estimate.



 $800 BOSTON RED STOCKINGS. Ernest J. Lanigan, Baseball Cyclopedia, 1922; Arthur Bartlett, Baseball and Mr. Spalding, 1951, p. 42. The Bridgeport Post, January 9, 1919, indicates the salary was $900. (The Post’s higher number may have included a signing bonus, or it may be an error.)



 $800 Harry Palmer, Athletic Sports, 1889, p. 47;   Preston Orem, "The National Association Season of 1874,” Vintage & Classic Baseball Collector, #38, June, 2004, p. 72.







                                  Estimated. The Brooklyn Argus, July 10, 1876, said the salary as between $1500 and $1800. Jim was the first National League hold-out, refusing to sign until the eve of the opening game; in which, interestingly, he rapped out the first ever hit in the venerable circuit. Had he demurred a day longer, this distinction would have passed to someone else.



 $1600 Estimated.



 $1600 Estimated.




PROVIDENCE GRAYS.  Estimated, assuming Providence paid a premium.




BUFFALO BISONS.  Source: Baseball-Reference.com (as of 2010).




With the Buf       f O'Rourke gives the figure as $2000, but the Buffalo Courier of February 25 says it is $1300. William H. Dunbar, “Baseball Salaries Thirty Years Ago,” Baseball Magazine, July, 1918, No. 3, p. 291-292, also lists Jim’s 1881 salary as $2000. The higher amount seems more likely since Jim was also manager and captain of the Bisons, which would have earned at least a $200 or $300 premium over his player salary.




Sporting Life, April 5, 1890.




Sporting Life, April 5, 1890.



 $3000 Sporting Life, April 5, 1890.




NATIONAL LEAGUE NEW YORK GIANTS. (This amount may have included a signing bonus). **



 $3000 Sporting Life, April 5, 1890.


 $3000 Sporting Life, April 5, 1890.



 $3500  Sporting Life, April 5, 1890.



 $3500  Sporting Life, April 5, 1890.



 $3500  NEW YORK GIANTS OF THE PLAYERS' LEAGUE. According to league policy, O’Rourke’s salary would have been the same as his previous salary with the National League ($3500) according to Players’ League policy.



  $2500 NATIONAL LEAGUE NEW YORK GIANTS.  New York Times, February 6, 1891 (Failed revolutionaries must pay the piper.)



  $3500 Per contract dated December 3, 1891, auctioned by Robt. Edwards Auctions for $17,625. The contract was unusual in that it was for three years. O’Rourke was to have been paid $3500 in 1892 and $3000 in 1893. This may account, in part, for his outspoken criticism of the Giants’ manager.



  $3000 WASHINGTON NATIONALS as Player and Manager.  Estimated.

** There is some debate over the exact amount of O’Rourke’s 1885 record salary. The 1890 Spalding Guide gives it as $4500. However, the 1919 Spalding Guide says the salary was $6000. Robert Smith (Heroes of Baseball, 1952, p. 77) also says O’Rourke received a $6000 salary from the Giants. Sporting News, in 1884, announced, “Jim O’Rourke has finally made up his mind and signed with the New York League Club” at a salary of $6000 (Sporting News, November 12, 1884, p. 5).

But then, two months later, Sporting Life ( January 14, 1885, p. 5) reported the salary as only $4200. Sporting Life, April 5, 1890, sticks with its earlier report of $4200. The $4200 would still have been the record to that date, and seems more believable, in light of the fact that as reported in the same notice, Ward and Ewing were each to earn only $3000 for 1885. The $6000 figure may have included a one-time signing bonus and/or payment of O’Rourke’s first year tuition to Yale Law School. Sporting Life noted the conflicting reports over the amount: “There is still considerable speculation as to O’Rourke’s salary. Those who know say that it is exactly $4200, which is not likely to be lessened by fines, as O’Rourke never needs disciplining in any way.” (Sporting Life, June 24, 1885, “Notes and Comments.”)

If you prefer a figure somewhere in the middle, the New Haven Union reported in December of 1885, after interviewing O’Rourke, that his salary was $5000.

Whatever the exact amount ($4200, $4500, $5000 or $6000), it was many times the average annual wage of a factory worker of the 1880s, and more than Jim’s professors earned at Yale. (Daniel M. Pearson, Baseball in 1889, p. 67.) In the 1880s, an industrial worker earned approximately $650. (John Rossi, The National Game, 2000, p. 33.) Two decades later, in 1906, the highest baseball salary was paid to “Mr. Shortstop,” Bobby Wallace, who earned $6000. (Donald Honig, The National League, 1983, 1987, p. 3.)