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Omaha Rourkes

From BR Bullpen

In 1905 the Omaha Rangers of the Western League were renamed the Omaha Rourkes after owner-manager Pa Rourke. The team from Omaha, NE went 86-62 in the 1905 campaign, third in the six-team Western. Bill Shipke led the league with 10 home runs. The next year the Rourkes again finished third, at 73-74. The '07 season gave the Rourkes their first title with an 84-63 campaign as they got hot late to take the title. The pennant winners' top contact hitter was Harry Welch, who batted .311, second in the circuit. 3B Jimmy Austin had the top fielding percentage at the hot corner and stole 63 bases to lead the WL.

Omaha led much of the way in 1908 but a 12-game winning streak by the Sioux City Soos late led to an 86-59, second place finish for the Rourkes, two games out of first. Welch won the batting crown as his .362 was 42 points better than anyone else. Austin swiped 97 bases to lead the circuit. Chick Autry hit .320, second in the league, and fielded .942, leading third basemen in the league. Omaha had two other players in the top five in average - first baseman Dwyer at .318 and Belden at .305. Pat Ragan went 29-7 as the team's ace.

Omaha slipped another spot in 1909, going 84-68 for third place, but they played the role of spoiler and got their revenge by beating the Soos late in the year to cost them the pennant. Welch (.372) won his second straight batting title, this one by 43 points. He also led the league in hits (196) and doubles (41), was tied for second with 15 triples and 5th with 51 steals. Former big-leaguer and 1B Jim Kane hit .315, fifth in the circuit, and led the league with 16 triples.

Omaha finished 5th of 8 teams in 1910 with an 84-82 mark. Charlie Rhodes (17-5) was the staff ace while Welch slipped to .260, but was fifth in the league with 12 homers. The next year they went 85-80 and tied Sioux City for fourth place. Kane hit .340, third in the league, and led the circuit with 73 steals. He was second with 218 hits and tied for second with 16 triples. Batting champ Art Thomason (.342) split the year with Topeka.

The Rourkes went 92-71, good for third place in 1912. Thomason won another batting championship (.344) and led the WL's outfielders in fielding percentage (.972). Harry Hicks (18-5) led the league in winning percentage while Mark Hall (25-9) tied for the league lead in wins, was 5th in strikeouts (206) and second in walks (121). Omaha fell to 79-86 in 1913 though Hicks (7-10, 2.27) led the league in ERA. Bunk Congalton had a big year, leading the league in hits (227) and finishing second in average (.349), homers (19), total bases (342) and tied for the lead in doubles (50). Thomason was 5th in average (.332), tied for 4th in triples (15) and third in runs (128).

Omaha continued to decline in 1914 with a 77-87 record and a sixth-place finish. Congalton (.335, 11 HR) was fifth in average and tied for 5th in homers, while Thomason tied for 4th with 201 hits. Someone named Willis (18-13, 2.96) was 5th in the league in ERA and worked 307 innings, 4th in the circuit.

Omaha bounced back in 1915 to go 71-69, 4th place in the league. Blodgett (24-15, 2.27) was 4th in ERA and tied for the win lead. Forsythe was second in the league in hits (178), 4th in triples (10), third in total bases (239) and second in average (.338).

In 1916 the Rourkes returned to the top with their second pennant thanks to a 92-57 record. Otto Merz (18-11, 2.45) led in ERA with C. Thompson (17-10, 2.71) third. "R. Miller" was third in average (.344), second in total bases (287), 5th in hits (196), second in doubles (45) and second in runs (119).

In the league's split-season format in 1917, Omaha went 47-45 in the first half and 26-30 in the second. Merz led the league with 26 wins. The 1918 season was cut short due to World War I with Omaha at 33-32 and in fifth place. In 1919 the Rourkes finished last for the first time, at 56-80.

The 1920 season saw a 76-77 finish for the 4th-place Rourkes, despite a league-leading 28 wins from Emilio Palmero. Palmero lost just 10 and was second in the league with 193 strikeouts.

Rourke sold the team in 1921 and they were renamed the Omaha Buffaloes.

Main source: "The Western League" by W.C. Madden and Patrick Stewart

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1905 87-62 3rd Pa Rourke none
1906 73-74 3rd Pa Rourke none
1907 84-63 1st Pa Rourke none League Champs
1908 86-59 2nd Pa Rourke none
1909 84-68 3rd Pa Rourke / Bill Fox none
1910 84-82 5th Bill Fox / Pa Rourke none
1911 85-80 4th Pa Rourke / Bill Schipke / Carl Arbogast none
1912 92-71 3rd Pa Rourke none
1913 79-86 5th Carl Arbogast / Charlie Babb / Eddie Justice none
1914 77-87 6th Pa Rourke none
1915 71-69 4th Marty Krug none
1916 92-57 1st Marty Krug none League Champs
1917 73-75 5th Marty Krug / Pa Rourke
1918 33-32 5th Bill Jackson League suspended operations July 7
1919 56-80 8th Bill Jackson
1920 76-77 4th Jack Lelivelt none