James O’Rourke Statue Unveiling, Concert on Friday

PRESS RELEASE – Baseball history scores bigwith the unveiling of the James O’Rourke statue on Friday, August 27 at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard in downtown Bridgeport. O’Rourke is the city’s most famous baseball player and one of the nineteenth century’s most popular sports figures. The dedication ceremony kicks-off at approximately 6:00 p.m., prior to the Bluefish and Long Island Ducks game and will feature keynote speaker Fay Vincent among other sports celebrity speakers and a post game concert by the John Whelan Band.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch remarks, “What better time to celebrate James O’Rourke, the city’s famous scholar-athlete, just a few days before his 160th birthday than with a hometown baseball game and concert. I’m sure another famous Bridgeporter, P.T. Barnum, would approve.
 
“His love of the game and his love for learning are something every young athlete should aspire to, and it’s my hope that every time they visit the Ballpark they will be reminded of how important it is to be a good student as well as a good athlete,” he added.
 
Nicknamed “Orator Jim” because of his verbosity and command of language, James holds a number of storied firsts in baseball’s record books. O’Rourke Statue Committee member and author of “Bridgeport Baseball,” Michael Bielawa comments, “O’Rourke is credited with getting the very first hit in National League history, he and his brother John are the first siblings to play a major league outfield together, and Jim is the first player to get multiple extra-base hits in the same inning of a World Series game. James is also the oldest person to catch a complete game. Playing at the age of 54 with the New York Giants, O’Rourke got one hit in four plate appearances and he even stole a base.” Bielawa continued, “When the batting champ was courted by the New York Giants the team promised to make him one of the era’s highest paid players, but Jim would not sign until the Giants agreed to pay for his Yale Law education. The club consented and Jim graduated with Yale’s Class of 1887, and the Giants marched into the postseasons of 1888 and ‘89.”
 
Bernie Crowley, president of The First Hit, Inc. explains, “After James retired from the majors he returned to Bridgeport, the city he loved, and not only organized a Connecticut minor league, but owned, managed and played for Bridgeport’s club, the Orators. O’Rourke is a dynamic personality in New England baseball history.”
Bridgeport Landing Development and the Christoph family, developers of the Steelpointe Harbor development, generously jumpstarted the statue’s funding in 2009 with a $50,000 donation. Designed by renowed Connecticut sculptor Susan Clinard, the life-size bronze statue features O’Rourke striding into a pitch representative of Jim getting the very first hit in National League history. The statue will be placed just outside the entrance to the Ballpark and will sit atop a granite base inscribed with some of O’Rourke’s favorite sayings and quotes, as well as recognition of the major donors.
 
The public is invited to attend the unveiling to be held prior to the start of the Aug. 27 Long Island Ducks vs. Bridgeport Bluefish game at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard.
 
Following the game, John Whelan performs a postgame concert at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, Friday August 27, 2010.
 
What better way to commemorate the unveiling of the James O’Rourke Statue than with the sounds of celebrated Celtic musician John Whelan! The John Whalen Band features top Irish musicians and the most talented button accordionist in the world. John Whelan has performed on a variety of television shows such as The Conan O’Brien Show and Sex and the City. His tunes have even been a part of the Winter Olympics! John has appeared in the Broadway musical, Riverdance as well as in Ang Lee’s film Ride With the Devil. With six Celtic albums to date selling over half a million copies, John’s music has hit # 6 on Billboard’s World Music Chart. Join us for a memorable evening of Irish music. “Play Ball and Let the Music Play!”
 
To view a complete bio of the John Whelan Band visit his website at www.johnwhelanmusic.com.
 
For tickets to the Friday, August 27 Long Island Ducks vs. Bridgeport Bluefish game, which includes the post-game John Whelan Band concert, please call (203) 345-4800 (mention James O’Rourke and a portion of the ticket proceeds will go toward the statue fund).
 
The Bridgeport Bluefish Professional Baseball Club, a charter team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, plays its home games at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, located off Exit 27 of I-95 on the corner of Broad Street and South Frontage Road in Bridgeport. 2010 group outings are available by calling 203-345-4800. Visit the Bluefish online at www.bridgeportbluefish.com.
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