Title: Baseball player, teamster
Birthdate: June 12, 1860
Death Date: November 20, 1910
Plot Location: Section 123, Lot 241
People change their names for various reasons but it seems more prevalent when they aspire to achieve celebrity status. Jack’s given name was John K. Byrne, the second of seven sons born to Irish immigrants in Philadelphia. He enjoyed playing baseball as a teenager.
At age 18 he played with an amateur club as a catcher, becoming friends with pitcher Bill Sweeney. In 1879 they decided to play ball on the other side of the country, as this obituary states, and that’s when he may have begun using the name John or “Jack” O’Brien. He returned home after one season, found work as a glass blower, and played with the Philadelphia Athletics when they were still a minor league team. They joined a newly formed major league, the American Association, in 1882. After their 1883 championship season, Jack built a reputation over the next three years as the unluckiest man in the profession because it seemed he got hurt in almost every game.
He was let go, but signed a contract for the 1887 season with the Brooklyn Grays. He had a miserable year there, playing just 30 of 138 games due to injuries. Those were common with catchers before protective gear was invented. Similar problems occurred the next year with the Baltimore Orioles, so he sat out the 1889 season, as rumors spread that he might take a slightly less dangerous position as an umpire. The Athletics persuaded him to make a comeback in 1890, playing first base. Jack remained injury-free the entire season but it was a miserable year for the team. They went from first place in July to eighth place in September due to financial problems and not being able to pay the players. They finished the season with a pick-up team, losing the final 21 games.
The Athletics were expelled from the American Association, but a new A’s organization was created the following year. Jack signed with the St. Paul Apostles of the Western Association but that team also had financial issues. He played 96 games before the club went bankrupt in August. At 31, his professional career was over, but he returned to Philly, worked as a pressman, and enjoyed playing some semi-pro ball.
Jack reverted to his birth name and married Teresa Dougherty Clark in 1894. She brought her nine-year-old son, Louis, with her into the marriage, and the following year Howard Byrne was born.
Sometimes one aspect of a career becomes the start of a new career. Since travel was a big part of his time in professional sports, Jack may have discovered he liked being on the road, so he eventually became a teamster, or driver. That’s how his occupation was listed in his last two census reports. After Jack died, Teresa lived for eight years with Howard, and was buried with her husband in Section 123 on the Yeadon side of the cemetery.
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