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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 970


This is the grave of Dave Orr.

Born in Brooklyn in 1859, Orr was Irish-American, the son of an immigrant father. Despite that, he had a decent life. He grew up in Brooklyn and was good at baseball. So he had a path out of his working class background. In 1883, he signed with the New York Gothams in the National League. He only played one game for the Gothams and then went to the New York Metropolitans in the American Association. It was for the Metropolitans that he would most of his pretty good career. He didn’t have a long career, but he was good pretty fast. He had three straight real solid seasons in 1884, 1885, and 1886, where he managed, according to Baseball Reference’s WAR stat, a 5.8, 5.0, and 6.3 wins. He almost won the triple crown in 84, with his 9 home runs. But 11 home runs led the league. In 1886, he hit a record 31 triples (how the game has changed!), which stood as the all-time record until 1912 when Owen Wilson broke it with 36 and even today it is the second highest in major league history, tied with Heinie Reitz who also hit 31 in 1894. As a side note here, in 2007, Curtis Granderson hit 23 triples. This is a truly astounding number. That ties him for 22nd all time in single season triples. Not a single person above him on that list had their season later than 1925.

Orr’s problem was injuries. He was a, uh, big man. He was 5’11 and weighed, generously, 250. So let’s just say that was not a body that had a long career in it. Despite this, he was considered quite a good defensive first baseman. He actually hit well through his career, which ended in 1890. Never had a bad year. But he was hurt a lot and was really playing half seasons. He had something of a comeback in 1890, playing by then for the legendary Brooklyn Ward Wonders of the Players League, which is one of the short-lived major leagues of the Gilded Age.

However, it wasn’t injuries, or at least not exactly that ended Orr’s career. In late 1890, at the age of 31, he was playing an exhibition game in Pennsylvania. He had a stroke on the field and was temporarily paralyzed on his left side. He slowly learned to walk again. He really wanted to come back. But there was just no way he could. He tried until 1893, but his body wasn’t even close to being healthy. He finished his career with a very healthy .342 average, still the 11th highest career total in major league history.

Orr was a Brooklyn legend though. He had always been a real popular player with the press. So the Brooklyn teams decided to keep him around and give him something to do. He became a ticket taker at the Polo Grounds and had a number of other minor jobs over the years at various ballparks. He finally died in 1915, at the age of 55.

Dave Orr is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

If you would like this series to visit other first basemen, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. According to Baseball Reference’s JAWS stat, Orr is the 79th greatest first baseman of all time. Not bad when you consider the brevity of his career. At number 78 is one Wally Pipp, buried in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Number 80 is Mike Hargrove and at 81 is Mo Vaughn, both of course still alive. Number 82 is Joe Kuhel, who played in the 30s and 40s for the Senators and White Sox. He is in Kansas City. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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