Connor joined his first major league team, the Troy Haymakers, when he was 23. He found not only a career but also a wife in Troy when he went to a shirt factory where she worked; the long-torsoed Irishman had to be fitted with a special uniform and she took his measurements.
Connor was one of the greatest sluggers of the 19th century. His 138 career home runs stood as the record until Babe Ruth exceeded it in the lively ball era. A vivid image of the mustachioed Connor was written by veteran New York sportswriter Sam Crane, who claimed Connor was, “the best base runner I ever saw, excepting Bill Lange, and it behooved the baseman to give Roger a clear path. With his weight catapulting him, with speed and force, he slid feet first and, as he landed, could bob up, like a jack-in-the-box.” Crane described Connor as a man with a tremendous reach and a good pair of hands who was exceedingly good on pickups, digging the ball out of the dirt.
Although Roger Connor could drive the ball for prodigious distances, his speed and line drives added up to triples and he is fifth on the all-time list with 233. His home runs could be awesome. In 1883, he hit a magnificent shot in his first game with the Giants that caused jubilant patrons to pass the hat and buy him a $500 gold watch in appreciation. He favored pitches down by his knees and would put his 220 pounds of farm-hardened muscle behind his hits.
After the Troy franchise moved to New York, Connor starred for the Giants until 1890, when he helped form the Players League and was its home run champion for its only season. His career continued after peace was made with the outlaws, alternating between the Giants, the Phillies, and the Cardinals until he retired from the major leagues after 1897.
Back in his hometown of Waterbury he obtained a franchise in the tightly-knit Connecticut League, whose teams made one-day trolley jumps and slept at home every night. He hit .392 to lead his league in batting, his eye sharpened by spectacles that might have been laughed at in the big leagues. Later, he sold his Waterbury team and bought the franchise of the larger Springfield, MA entry. He played there until he was 46 in 1903, managing the team and saving himself, as owner, two salaries.
He left baseball a prosperous man who could look back on his achievements in the earlier years of the game. He had six hits in six at-bats in an 1895 game against Jouett Meekin. He hit three home runs in succession in an 1888 game against Indianapolis and two home runs off Larry Corcoran in a game against Cap Anson‘s Chicago White Stockings when he was with Troy.
Roger Connor’s case for Hall of Fame election was argued strongly by Bill Klem, who held Connor in special esteem. In 1902, when Klem was breaking into professional umpiring in the Connecticut League, the young umpire gave several decisions against Connor’s Springfield team. With the fans shouting for his blood, Klem was relieved when the huge playing manager of the home team put an encouraging arm across the young umpire’s shoulders and assured everyone Klem had the right to call them as he saw them.