A much traveled ballplayer, Orator Shafer was an outfield star during baseball’s early years. One of the game’s first iron-men, Orator led the league in games played a number of times but his greatest trait was his arm. Orator currently rests 10th all-time in career outfield assists as he once tallied 50 assists in a single season–still a record–when schedules were substantially smaller.
Shafer made his debut in 1874 with the Hartford Dark Blues, but ended the season with the New York Mutuals. With the Philadelphia Whites of the old National Association in 1875, Orator was a reserve outfielder on Mike McGeary’s club. Regular playing time didn’t come the Orator’s way until he joined the Louisville Grays in 1877. That year he led the league in games played and finished second in the homerun department. It was also the first year Shafer led the loop in outfield assists.
In the 1870s, baseball was a new-fangled enterprise and players were at their leisure. Orator, after a breakout year with Louisville, lent his services to the Indianapolis Blues for the 1878 season. In one of his finest years, Shafer hit .338 with 90 hits in just 63 games. Orator led the league in games played, indicating the small schedules of the time.
With a new team in 1879, it was still the same ol’ Orator. He again hit above .300 and led the league with the astounding total of 50 outfield assists as a member of Cap Anson’s White Stockings. But after the year, Orator got the itch again and left Anson in his dust. After playing with six teams in his first five years, Shafer found a home with the Cleveland Blues in 1880. Although Shafer was still one of the top outfielders in Cleveland, his offensive game regressed in Ohio. His batting average fell to .266 in 1880, .257 in 1881 and a new low of .214 in 1882.
With his offensive production all dried up, the Blues ended their three-year marriage to Orator and he entered into nuptials with the Buffalo Bisons. Rejuvenated in Buffalo, Shafer again led the league in assists while his bat came back to life. Shafer hit .292 for Jim O’Rourke’s Bisons, a team that finished fifth in the standings despite a star-studded cast of O’Rourke, Pud Galvin, Dan Brouthers (all Hall of Famers) and Deacon White, Jack Rowe, Hardy Richardson and Davy Force.
When the Union Association became a Major League in 1884, Shafer jumped the Bisons and signed with the St. Louis Maroons. The Maroons were the UA’s powerhouse, as Fred Dunlap guided the team to an amazing 94-19 record. Player/Manager Dunlap hit .412 and Shafer led the league with 40 doubles. But the Union Association only lasted one year and when Shafer returned to the older National League, he was unable to duplicate his success as a Maroon. His batting average plummeted from .360 to .195. He left the NL and signed with the Philadelphia A’s of the American Association and played two final years in Philly.
G 871/R 601/H 1,000/2B 164/3B 53/HR 11/RBI 317/BA .282/SA .367/OBP .326