Al Orth

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Albert Lewis Orth
(Smiling Al or The Curveless Wonder)

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Biographical Information[edit]


Nicknamed "Smiling Al", Al Orth pitched fifteen seasons in the big leagues, winning 204 games, and was known for his control on the mound. He was also a good hitter and was occasionally used as a position player to get his bat in the lineup.

After attending DePauw University, Orth played for the Lynchburg Hill Climbers of the Virginia League in 1894 and 1895, winning 28 games in the latter year. His contract was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies in August 1895, and he won 8 straight games for the club that summer, going 8-1 overall. He won at least 14 games for the team the next six seasons, leading the National League with an .824 winning percentage (14-3) in 1899 and recording 20 victories in 1901.

Orth jumped to the Washington Senators of the American League in 1902 and was dealt to the New York Highlanders two and a half seasons later. Taught the spitball by New York teammate Jack Chesbro, he led the AL with 27 wins and 36 complete games in 1906. The next summer, his victory total dropped to 14 (still best on the team), and he had his best year at the bat, hitting .324, the highest average on the team. However, injuries took a toll on him, and he saw little playing time in the majors the next two years, which he primarily spent as a player/manager for the Lynchburg Shoemakers of the Virginia League. He played in his final big league game for the Highlanders in 1909, appearing in more games as a second baseman than as a pitcher.

During his career, Orth was known to have excellent control, recording only 1.77 walks per nine innings (#47 on the all-time list). In addition to his 440 major league appearances as a pitcher, he was in 55 games as an outfielder, 8 as a shortstop, 6 as a second baseman, and 4 as a first baseman. He wasn't a position player converted to pitcher in the majors; rather, he started out as a pitcher and, starting in his third season in the majors, almost always appeared in a few games as a position player as well.

On August 20, 1901, he was used as a fill-in umpire in the second game of a doubleheader against the Brooklyn Superbas when regular umpire Bob Emslie fell ill. As the game was close, he was needed as a pinch-hitter in the 9th inning by the Phillies, and teammate Doc White replaced him as umpire. Following his playing days, Orth was an umpire in the Virginia League and then in the the National League from 1912 to 1917. He was also a coach for Washington and Lee University in 1914 and for the Virginia Military Institute.

As of 2010, Orth is one of only two major league players to come out of DePauw University. He is also only one of two big leaguers with the name "Orth"; the other one, Orth Collins, was his teammate on the 1904 Highlanders.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL Wins Leader (1906)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (1899)
  • AL Saves Leader (1903)
  • AL Innings Pitched Leader (1906)
  • AL Complete Games Leader (1906)
  • NL Shutouts Leader (1901)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 6 (1896, 1898, 1901, 1902, 1905 & 1906)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (1901 & 1906)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1906)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 10 (1897, 1898 & 1901-1907)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1902, 1905 & 1906)

Related Sites[edit]