Hall of Famer
Inducted in 1994
Inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
James Edward "Tip" O'Neill was a sensational hitter who slugged his way to the top of the American baseball ranks during the 1880s. O'Neill first emerged from the diamonds of Southern Ontario in 1877 as a pitcher for the Woodstock Actives. His prowess on the field earned him the title of the "Woodstock Wonder" as well as the notice of several American clubs. In 1882, he journeyed south to play with the New York Metropolitans. In 1884, O'Neill signed with the St. Louis Browns of the American Association, also as a pitcher. When the team discovered that his brilliant batting skills far outweighed his promising pitching, the young Canadian was put in left field so that he might focus on his performance at the plate. A powerful and consistent hitter, O'Neill knew how to wait for his pitch. He would deliberately foul off ball after ball until the pitcher gave him what he wanted, eventually earning him the nickname "Tip." As a result, his record was outstanding. He posted a batting average over .300 seven years in a row, and topped the league in one or more hitting statistics nearly every season. Eighteen-eighty-seven was Tip's Triple Crown year, as he became the only batter to lead the league in home runs (14), doubles (52), and triples (19), in the same season. He also topped all other players with his superb batting average (.492), RBIs (123), hits (225), total bases (357) and runs scored (167) that year. Since walks were considered hits in those days, this extraordinary .492 batting average has since been reduced to .435 in order to reflect modern rules, however it still registers as the second highest single season batting average in baseball history. During the 1880s, the Browns were one of the most famous and successful teams in America, winning four consecutive American Association pennants between 1885 and 1888. In these golden years of St. Louis baseball, O'Neill was a star both on the field and in the heart of the public. He was a sporting icon to baseball fans, a hero to children, and a particular favourite with the ladies; Tip was said to have attracted the largest proportion of female fans than any other player in the league. O'Neill played for the Chicago team of the Players League during the players' strike of 1890. Once matters had been settled in 1891, he was back with the Browns. Tip played one final season with Cincinnati in 1892 before returning to Canada. After retiring from the field, O'Neill moved to Montreal where, as head of the Eastern League, he played a key role in bringing professional baseball to that city. He also served the league as an umpire for several years. A potent force in baseball's early years, O'Neill is regarded by baseball people as the greatest position player ever developed in Canada. In his 1,054 games played, O'Neill cracked 1,386 hits, launched 52 home runs, and posted a superb career average of .326. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.