John O’Connor

  • Card series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • City: Cincinnati
  • Team: Red Stockings (AA)
  • League: American Association

John Joseph O’Connor (1866-1937) was as durable as they come. He holds the distinction, with a mere 28 others, of playing in four different decades in the majors. His durability was a product of his toughness. Despite the benign-sounding nickname of “Peach Pie,” O’Connor was known as one of the dirtiest players of his day and hard as nails. He excelled behind the plate, a position that devoured its occupants. With the Cleveland Spiders from 1892-98, O’Connor (also known as “Rowdy Jack”) hit .290+ four straight seasons. In his 21-year big league career, Jack hit a fine .263 He had started out with Cincinnati’s Red Stockings in 1887 and stayed in the Buckeye State with the Columbus Solons and Cleveland until he moved to St. Louis following the ‘98 campaign. He would move on to Pittsburgh and New York before landing back in St. Louis in 1904 where he remained through 1910.

Jack’s waning days in St. Louis proved fateful for he and two of the game’s all-time great hitters. Nap Lajoie and Ty Cobb were locked in a memorable duel for the batting title (and thus, the 1910 Chalmers Award) as the season wound down. O’Connor was the player/manager of the Browns when Lajoie’s Naps came to town for a season-ending double-header at Sportsman’s Park. History doesn’t record why O’Connor so strongly preferred Nap to win the title, but we might suppose Cobb wasn’t any more beloved in St. Louis than elsewhere. In any event, “Peach Pie” ordered his rookie third baseman Red Corriden to play back . . . way back, as in short left field. Lajoie proceeded to drop five bunts down the line, all for base hits. Lajoie reached base on his 6th at bat on a fielder’s error, but O’Connor tried to bribe the official scorer to change the error to a hit, even offering to buy the woman a new wardrobe. The batting title and Chalmers Award went to Cobb despite the host’s accommodation. The difference in final average was minute, and the controversy inspired Chalmers to give both Lajoie and Cobb new cars. But the escapade cost O’Connor his job as league president Ban Johnson ordered him and Browns’ owner Robert Hedges fired and banned. Decades later, research found Cobb had been double-credited with one day’s results. In 1981 Lajoie was declared the true winner of the batting title for 1910, by seven thousandths of a point. Rowdy Jack’s revenge….

  • O’Connor’s stunt got him blacklisted and unofficially banned from major league baseball for life
  • At age 46, Jack returned to Cleveland’s Forest City club in 1912 for a last hurrah. No data survives for that team’s year but Baseball Reference records O’Connor managed the squad

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