SABR

George Orme

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

“Centerfielder George Orme Scores Three Runs Without Time at Bat and Sends Bay City Home Crazy” – so read the headline in the Flint Journal of June 30, 1919. Orme had begun his professional baseball career in 1912 and was about halfway through his tenure when he played for the Flint Halligans in 1919. He was walked three times and scored twice. He also sacrificed in the first inning, and came around to score, Twice he moved up on the basepaths by stealing a base. The box score shows him with zero at-bats and three runs scored.

Orme did collect some at-bats that year (274) and 93 hits, for a .337 batting average (with one homer) for Flint and Saginaw in the Michigan-Ontario League. He spent most of the year with last-place Flint but was “loaned to the Saginaw Aces to finish out the season and aid in the drive for the 1919 Michont pennant.”1 Saginaw did indeed win the pennant.

Orme had been born in Lebanon, Indiana, on September 16, 1891. His father, John, was a butcher who had been born in Ireland and arrived in America just a dozen years earlier, in 1879. His mother, Belle (Hubbard) Orme, was a Hoosier by birth; she bore four children – Hazel, Ruby, George, and Freddie. The family lived in Indianapolis from at least 1900. George went to St. John’s elementary school and for three years to Manual High School.

It was 1912 when George first started playing as a pro, working for Galesburg (Illinois) in the Central Association. We were unable to locate any statistics for his work in Galesburg, nor even a team for which he played in 1913 (though there was an Orme who played right field for Oshkosh, who could well have been the same man). Oshkosh took first place in the Wisconsin-Illinois League. (Galesburg had dropped out of the Central Association in 1913.)

It was in the Central Association that Orme played the next three years, however, listed in just 18 games for Burlington in 1914 (.hitting .232), 48 games for Waterloo (.188) in 1915, and then 15 games (with a .358 average) for Waterloo again in 1916. Unfortunately for Orme, it was Waterloo that won the pennant in 1914 and Burlington in 1915.

In 1917 there was already in decline in the number of professional teams and it was harder for players to find work – those who weren’t taken into military service. When Orme registered for the draft, he said he was a professional baseball player but unemployed. He is not found listed in baseball in either 1917 or 1918, but did surface, as we have seen, with Flint (and then Saginaw) in 1919.

In 1920 he played for his third team in the same Michigan-Ontario League, this time for a Canadian ballclub, the Brantford (Ontario) Red Sox. But not before a somewhat bizarre situation was resolved. Orme was still on a Flint contract in March 1920, and considered “one of the sweetest outfielders” of the league, given his .337 average in 1919.2 It was reported that both the team’s owner and the Flint manager had sold him.  Flint’s owner, Tom Halligan, sold Orme to Brantford and Flint’s manager, Hump Pierce, sold him to Milwaukee – both more or less doing so at the same time, perhaps on the very same day. It wasn’t that either transaction would have been improper, wrote the Flint Journal, in that “any authorized agent of the owner may sell any specified player.” Nonetheless, the matter had to get sorted out since he clearly couldn’t play for two teams at once. Brantford claimed that its deal was dated February 14 and preceded the Milwaukee deal. A couple of weeks later, Brantford prevailed.3

Orme played just as well as hoped for, hitting .327 in 113 games for Brantford. But by late July he was in hot water. He’d brought about the resignation of popular manager Knotty Lee. In fact, Lee was one of the organizers of the league itself. The Saginaw News explained: “George Orme, one of the most hot-headed ball players in the league, was responsible for Lee’s resignation. He called him a dirty name that was absolutely uncalled for. Lee, not being a scrapper, did not reply to him. He resigned instead.”4 The newspaper was upset that the ballclub retained the player and let the manager resign, and offered its view of the situation: “If Orme were the best ball player in the game, which he isn’t by a long way, we’d say get rid of him. We understand that Brantford had an offer for him from a club in the Pacific Coast league. If that is true, he ought to be sent there immediately. He has shown on more than one occasion that he is hot tempered and hard to handle.” Orme had called Lee a “yellow _____.” The readers of the newspaper were left to fill in the blank.

Orme was indeed retained and was reported in August to be the leading basestealer in the league. He was, however, sold to another team on August 29 – the Boston Red Sox – to report after the M-O season was over. Orme thus went from one Red Sox team to another.

Orme did report to Boston and appeared in four games on four consecutive days for manager Ed Barrow. He was a pinch-runner in his September 14 debut game, then came in as a late-inning replacement for Tim Hendryx in the game the next day. He had one at-bat, singling in the ninth inning and driving in a run, then scoring. The two runs only made the embarrassing 18-5 loss to the Browns a little less humiliating. In five plate appearances on the 16th, Orme walked three times and singled again. After the four games, he was 2-for-6 with a .556 on-base percentage. He successfully handled eight chances in the field. He scored four runs, but had just the one RBI.

And then he received word that one of his children had become ill, so he was given permission to leave the ballclub and return home.

In 1921 Commissioner Kenesaw M. Landis was called upon to rule on a complaint Brantford filed against the Boston Red Sox. They said that Boston had agreed to pay $2,000 for Orme and had sent only half that amount. Because Orme had left with the manager’s permission, Boston was required to send the second thousand.5

After his time in Boston, Orme was brought back to Brantford – and hired as manager. He said that one of his first moves would be to dispose of infielder Johnny Murphy because he was “somewhat hard to handle on account of his disposition.”6

Brantford finished in second place, seven games behind the leaders. Orme played himself in 105 games and hit .309. In an early June game in Kitchener, he was guilty of swearing and told to pay a fine of $20 for “conduct unbecoming a gentleman.” Instead, he pulled him team off the field. The game was forfeited. The Brantford ballclub was fined, too, and Orme suspended.7 In December his contract was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Orme reeled off a 17-game hitting streak at one point, but saw his average decline to .271 in his 146 games for the Maple Leafs. After the season, his services for 1923 were secured by Worcester during the late autumn. Orme played for Worcester in 1923 until he was traded to Bridgeport on July 7. He hit a combined .313 for the two teams. In 1924 it was Bridgeport at the start of the season and then back to Saginaw. With Bridgeport, he’d hit only .250 in 18 games but once back in the Class B “Mint” league (as the Michigan-Ontario League was often called), he hit .206 in 89 games.

Orme’s final season in baseball was for Kitchener, where he played in 124 games and hit .284. Interestingly, the business manager at Kitchener was Knotty Lee. Orme had tried his hand at pitching – and threw a one-hitter. That was remarkable enough, but he lost the game, too, 1-0, with the one hit being a home run in the ninth inning that cost him the game.8

Orme had worked as a structural iron worker from those couple of years out of baseball in 1917 and 1918 and continued to do so up until his retirement in 1957. George and his Iowan wife, Blanche (Mathews) Orme, married on March 1, 1917. They had their first child, George W. Orme, in 1919. Thirteen years later, they had a second child, Ida Belle. They continued to make their home in Indianapolis and that is where George died of a heart attack he suffered while playing cards at his union hall at the age of 70 in March 16, 1962.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Orme’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Necrology, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.

 

Notes

1 Flint (Michigan) Journal, September 1, 1920.

2 Flint Journal, March 30, 1920.

3 Saginaw (Michigan) News, April 18, 1920.

4 Saginaw News, July 25, 1920.

5 Muskegon (Michigan) Chronicle, June 15, 1921; Washington Post, June 16, 1921.

6 Bay City (Michigan) Times, February 9, 1921.

7 Various Michigan and other newspapers, including the Jersey Journal of Jersey City, New Jersey, June 20, 1921.

8 Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, June 26, 1925.

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