One team for each of the Jorgens brothers

Nordmenn of baseball

Jorgens brothers

Image: Public domain
Arndt Jorgens’s 1934 baseball card with Lou Gehrig’s description of him on the reverse side.

Michael Kleiner
The Norwegian American

At first glance, Arndt Ludwig “Art” Jorgens (Jørgens?) had a great 11-year baseball resume. His entire catching career was with the powerhouse New York Yankees from 1929 to 1939, winning five World Series during that time. Jorgens has the distinction, though, of being the only player to be a member of that many championship teams without ever seeing any action.

The Yankees’ starting catcher from 1928-1946 was future Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, whose career batting average was .313, with 1,969 hits, 343 doubles, 202 home runs, and 1,209 RBI. Jorgens’s career batting average was .238, with four HRs, 89 RBI, and 176 hits in just 307 games. That is only around 28 games a campaign in a 154-game season. Yet, it is still remarkable that a back-up catcher was able to remain with one team for 11 years.

Jurgens borthers

Photo: Public domain
A press photo from the New York Yankees shows Arndt Jorgens ready for action.

Jorgens was born May 18, 1905, in Modum, Norway. When the family immigrated to the United States, they settled in Chicago.

After hitting .292 in five minor league seasons, he made his major league debut on April 26, 1929, against the Philadelphia Athletics as a defensive replacement. He didn’t get an at bat in the 5-2 loss. His first at bat was the next day. He got his first hit as a pinch hitter for Dickey on April 29 against the Washington Senators. In his first start on April 30, Jorgens went 2-for-3, with two runs, also against the Senators. His first RBI came on May 8, when he plated two, while going 2-for-3 with a double against the St. Louis Browns.

Jorgens’s longest stretch of play came in 1932, when the usually mild-mannered Dickey was suspended for 30 days. Jorgens went 13-for-74 (.176) with six RBI from July 4 to Aug. 3, then didn’t play until Aug. 19. He finished that season hitting .219 with two HRs and 19 RBI. His first career tater came on June 1 at the Philadelphia Athletics.

In 1934, he had career highs in games played (58) at bat (183), hits (38), and RBI (20), but hit only .208. Defensively, he had a career .978 fielding percentage and nabbed 32% of would-be base stealers.

Though he didn’t play much, Jorgens was respected by his superstar teammates, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, and Joe DiMaggio. On the back of Jorgens’s 1934 baseball card, Lou Gehrig wrote “…When he was two years old, his parents moved to Rockford, Illinois and later changed to Chicago. Jorgens starred for his high school nine in Chicago and began his professional career with Rockford in 1926. He was secured by the Yankees in 1928, was farmed out for a couple of seasons for more experience but was recalled. Jorgens is 27 years old, 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing 160 pounds; batting and throwing right handed.”

Jorgens, who died on March 1, 1980, was the last Norwegian-born player in the major leagues, but his brother, Orville, became the third Norwegian American to do so when he debuted on April 19, 1935. The siblings never faced each other.

Jurgens borthers

Photo: Public domain
While Arndt Jorgens was the last Norwegian-born major league baseball player, his brother, Orville, was the first Norwegian-American player.

Orville Jorgens was born June 4, 1908, in Rockford. The 6-1, 180-pound righthander also played for only one team, pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1935 to 1937, when the team compiled a 179-281 record, finishing seventh (of eight teams) twice and last once. His best season was his rookie campaign, when he led National League pitchers in appearances with 53. He was a workhorse, starting 24 games, completing six, saving two out of the bullpen, and throwing 188.1 innings. His record was 10-15 with a 4.83 ERA. He won his first career game with 1.2 scoreless and hitless innings of relief on May 8, 1935, against Cincinnati, 5-4. His first win as a starter was a few days later, going eight innings, allowing six hits and two runs in a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Jorgens tossed a complete game three-hitter and collected an RBI in a 9-1 win over the Boston Braves Aug. 5.

The following season he tossed 167.1 innings, appeared in 39 games, starting 21, completing four, and ending with an 8-8 record and 4.79 ERA. His last season, 1937, Jorgens started only nine games, relieved in 43, and finished 3-4 with 4.41 ERA. For his career, he was 21-27 with a 4.70 ERA in 144 games, 54 of them starts, 11 complete games, and five saves.

On Dec. 22, 1937, the Phillies sold Jorgens to Baltimore of the International League and he was signed by the Chicago White Sox on Nov. 6, 1940, but he never appeared in another MLB game. Little is known about him or Arndt after their careers ended. Orville died Jan. 11, 1992, at age 83.

This article originally appeared in the June 1, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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