James O’Rourke Statue, Bridgeport

Bridgeport honors Hall-of-Fame baseball pioneer James O’Rourke with a monument outside the Ballpark at Harbor Yard.

The bronze statue by West Haven sculptor Susan Clinard was dedicated on late August to honor O’Rourke, who recorded the first hit in the National League in 1876 as part of a career that spanned 23 years.

Known as “Orator Jim,” O’Rourke was also an 1887 graduate of Yale Law School.

The monument depicts O’Rourke following through a baseball swing. A dedication on the west face of the monument’s base includes a summary of O’Rourke’s contributions to the sport and to Bridgeport.

An open bronze book near his feet bears a quote attributed to O’Rourke, “Baseball is for all creeds and nationalities.” The open book is supported by representations of a volume of Shakespearian poetry as well as Blackstone’s Commentaries (an authoritative exploration of English Common Law).

After his Major League career was over, O’Rourke was active in the professional Connecticut State League as an owner, manager and occasional player.

The dedication of the monument caps several years of efforts to honor O’Rourke. Efforts to convert the ballplayer’s former Pembroke Street home into a baseball museum ended when the house, long visible from Interstate 95 standing alone in a cleared area near the harbor, was demolished.

The statue stands outside the city’s Ballpark at Harbor Yard, home of the Independent League’s Bridgeport Bluefish.

An exhibition running through January of 2011 at the Fairfield Museum and History Center provides a look at baseball’s history in the region.

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