Nebraska Minor League Baseball
Omaha Rourkes
Western League Standings 1917
President: Frank Zehrung, Emerson Dickerson
Standings Wins----- Losses--- GB
Des Moines Boosters 84 62 --
Lincoln Links 83 64 1 ½
Sioux City Indians/St Joseph 80 66 4
St. Joseph Drummers/Hutchison 80 66 16
Joplin Miners 79 68 5 ½
Omaha Rourkes 73 75 12
Denver Bears 62 86 23
Wichita Witches 61 86 23 ½
Wins:Otto Merz, Omaha, 26

Musical franchises were played as WWI, movies and golf led to the decline of minor league baseball. There were 26 minor leagues that started the 1916 season. Twenty one leagues started the 1917 season and almost half disbanded before the season ended. The Western League had its share of issues with various franchises in financial difficulty throughout the year.

St. Joseph moved to Hutchison after the first half of the season. Sioux City moved to St. Joseph two weeks later. The league went to a split season with first half champions and second half champions and playoffs. Des Moines was the eventual winner of the playoffs. This was the last year for the Lincoln franchise until 1924.

The league had a salary limit which like most years was a cause of much consternation. With many other leagues folding during the year there were a lot of free agents and a lot of movement from club to club during the year. The Western League also had a rule that a club could only carry five pitchers and that only three of the pitchers could be experienced.

In August Payne of Des Moines pitched all 20 innings in a game against St. Joseph. In fact the game only saw 18 players as both pitchers went the distance.

Joe Stoddard was hired as groundskeeper for Rourke Park and Pa Hired Dr. Pryor as team conditioner. Dr. Pryor opened elegant baths and training rooms near 17th and Farnam in the Patterson Block.

Marty Krug was a player manager for the Rourkes for much of the season. In late July or early August he gave up the manager role and owner Pa Rourke took over the manager duties. During a game against Joplin, at Joplin the Rourke's were tied 3-3. Cooney tries to steal third and the throw from Monroe to Cochran was close. Umpire Daley calls Cooney out and a bruhaha results. In the melee, a Joplin player named Collins punches Rourke and eventually Rourke and Daley exchange blows. Rourke is taken off by the police and is fined $10.00.

Omaha had strong hitting and pitching. They were last in fielding in the league for the year.


Due to the lack of a Spalding Guide for 1918, the roster is a compendium of local paper reports and Sporting News articles. A November issue of Sporting News has a listing of the players in the Western League for 1917, but the microfiche copy I have looked at was so bad that it was impossible to make out most of the names.

In February, Pa announced that catcher Tony Brottem was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals. Tony was from Halstad Minnesota. He played 26 games with the Cards in 1916. In 1918 he played two games with the Cards and in 1921 he played 34 games in the majors with Pittsburg and Washington. He averaged .250 in 127 games. In may he hit the Durham Bull on the fly and received a $50.00 check from the Durham Bull Tobacco Company. The 25 by 40 foot Bull Durham sign was in 241 major and minor league during the 1917 season. When the Bull was hit on the fly by a batter the player received a $50.00 check. According to Baseball Magazine the sign had been hit 13 times through May17th.

Earl Smith averaged .331 for Omaha in 1917. According to the Sporting News this was the best average in the Western League for 1917. He was bought by the Browns during the season and played 52 games for St. Louis during the season. Earl played 14 games with the Chicago Nationals in 1916. He played with the Browns from 1917-1922. The Minor League Encyclopedia does not list Smith as the batting champ for the 1917 season. I suspect that Earl was not considered since he split his season between Omaha and the Browns.

Hal Brokow was released by Omaha in August and picked up by Joplin.

James "Shag" Thompson spent part of the 1916 season with Connie Mack's Athletics. He started the 1917 season with Omaha. His major league career included a cup of coffee with Philadelphia in 1914, 1915 and 1916.

In February, Pa announced that he has signed Cy Forsyth, Harold Irelan, Otto Merz , Marty O'Toole and Harry Krause All had played for Pa in 1916.

Harold Ireland averaged .276 in 21 games.

Joe Burg returned for 1917. He was traded to Joplin during the season.

Shaw averaged .313 playing both catcher and the infield during the year.

Otto Nye averaged .267 while playing third base for the Rourke's.

Otto Merz managed a 2.35 ERA for Omaha in 1917. In 1919 he was 5-5 for Omaha. In 1924 he pitched for the Memphis Chicks. The 35 year old from Red Bud Illinois was 20-6 for the Chicks. He played in the minors for 21 years and had an overall 249-243 record.

During the season, the Rourke's picked up Jim Park. Park had a cup of coffee with the Browns in 1915, 1916 and 1917. He was a strong pitcher for Omaha tossing a two hitter in August.

Marty Krug averaged .299 in 128 games.

Hugh Bradley played in 78 games and averaged .281. He played for the Boston Red Sox from 1910-1912 and in the Federal League fom 1914-1915.

Phil Cooney played for Sioux City from 1913-1916. Pa picked him up for Omaha in 1917. He averaged .232 in 128 games.

Pete McGuire was 0-6 as a pitcher for Omaha in 1917.

Ray Miller averaged .328 in 58 games for Omaha. He also played for Oakland in the PCL, Cleveland in the American League and Pittsburg in the National League during the 1917 season. He played for Falls City in the MINK league in 1910 for 14 games.

Marty O'Toole had a 19-17 record for Omaha in 1917. He wasa 15-7 in 1916. He played for Cincinnati in 1908, Pittsburg from 1911-1914 and the New York Giants in 1914. His best year was 1912 where he wasa 15-17 with Pittsburg.

Morrie Schick averaged .291 in 72 games.

Cecil Thomson was 8-13 for the Rourkes

David Williams played in 38 games and averaged .291. He also played for Rock Island in 1917.

Findley Yardley played in 57 games with Little Rock and 49 for Omaha in 1917. He averaged .282 for Omaha.

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