A Collection of Baseball Firsts

Who hit the first grand slam? Who was the first pinch hitter? Presenting the nine players of Smithsonian’s “They Did It First” All-Star Team


The First Hit: Jim O’Rourke

Jim ORourke
(Library of Congress)

On April 22, 1876, O’Rourke scored the first hit of the newly formed National League (NL) when he was playing for the Boston Red Caps. (The American League would jump from the minors to the majors in 1901; the American League and the National League are the two leagues that still compete today.) O’Rourke—who was playing with the New York Giants by the time he appeared on this 1887 baseball card—captured the National League batting title in 1884 by hitting .350, and in 1888 and ’89 helped New York to its first two league championships. An article in Sporting Life (1878) declared: “As a thrower, too, he stands preeminent, being credited with a throw of 365 feet, the next to the longest yet accomplished by any player.” O’Rourke was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.


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