St. Paddy's Day Tribute to Baseball's Past

Andrew WeaverCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2009

It’s mid-March, which basically means three acts of Awesomeness are about to occur: (1) the NCAA Tournament, (2) St. Patrick’s Day, and (3) Opening Day for Major League Baseball. 

I don’t think I need to elaborate on HOW or WHY these phenomena get filed under “Awesome,” but, for sure, there are those people who may only get super-psyched for one or two of these March goodies.

Fortunately, I’m not one of those guys.

I love all three, but since the NCAA Tourney is about to grab the undivided attention of everyone and their moms, I’m choosing to focus on the latter two: The Irish Day of Debauchery and the best damn day of Spring.

Specifically, in light of what Americans call the “Holiest of Irish holidays,” I thought it would be a great opportunity to pay homage to our professional baseball ancestors of Irish origin.

Now, as far as parallels between baseball and the Irish go, look no further than the category: Drink - Most Associated With.

Who’s kidding who here? For baseball fans, what’s a better way to spend a day at the ballpark than with a tall, cold beer, right? For Irish folk, what better way to spend...any moment of any day or night?  You get the point.

I focused my research using two main criteria: (1) the player must have been born in Ireland, and (2) the player must have a kick-ass Irish name.

So without further ado, here is a list of some of the few Irish-born former professional baseball players with the most kick-ass Irish names.


1)      Irish McIlveen

Too obvious?  Well, “Irish” was Henry Cooke McIlveen’s nickname given because he was born in Belfast, Ireland. Real creative, guys.  Good ‘ol Irish played from 1906-1909 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Highlanders and had a lifetime average of .215 with eight RBI over his 53 game career.  I guess Irish lacked the “Luck of the” commonly associated with his native people.  Hmm… maybe his nickname negated the whole thing.  Poor guy.

2)      Jack Doyle

OK, so Jack Doyle would make a lot of belligerent Irish guys pretty proud nowadays. He played from 1889-1905 for 10 teams and finished his career with a respectable .299 batting average, 968 RBI, and 516 stolen bases.  I’m Irish and sure, that’s a pretty nice career stat sheet for a homeland guy, but that’s not why he was awesome. Doyle was dubbed the name “Dirty Jack” for his, let’s call it “ill tempered,” style of play. During a game in 1900, he punched out an umpire after being called out on a steal attempt.  Doyle Rules!

3)      Charles Joseph “Curry” Foley

Curry Foley of Milltown, Ireland was a left-handed pitcher, outfielder, and first basemen who played for the Boston Red Caps and Buffalo Bisons during his four year career from 1879-1883. Although his career was rather short, Foley ingrained himself in the baseball record books by becoming the first player to hit for the cycle on May 25, 1882. I’ll drink to that!

4)      Joe “Fire” Cleary

Joe Cleary was the last native of Ireland to play in a Major League game, and it was probably for the best. Born in Cork, Ireland in 1918, Fire pitched in only one inning in his one inning-long career in 1945. The Washington Senators thought it would be a good idea to bring Cleary into the game on one fateful August afternoon only to yank him after retiring one batter. During his third of an inning of work (which turned out to be his playing career’s entire body of work), Fire Cleary managed to allow seven earned runs on five hits and three walks.  Currently, Cleary holds the major league record for highest ERA for a pitcher who recorded an out, with a 189.00 ERA. I wonder if “Fire” Cleary’s nickname was given to him before or after that game? Follow-up rhetorical question: I wonder if Cleary celebrated St Paddy’s Day a little late that year?

5)      John McGuinness

Mmmm… Guinness…

Our boy Johnny McGuinness played in three seasons, spread out between 1876 and 1884. He played for the New York Mutuals, the Syracuse Stars, and the Philadelphia Keystones. Born in Ireland in 1857, McGuinness mostly played first base.  Kind of light on the information for Johnny, but his name is too perfect to leave out of this piece. And now I’m thirsty.

Some other Celts with noteworthy names of kick-ass nature followed by their completely fabricated nickname and actual professional baseball term:

Patsy “Don’t call me that or else” Donovan (1890-1907);

Jocko “Oh the irony” Fields (1887-1892);

Reddy “Guess my hair color” Mack (1885-1890);

Barney “After a few I’ll definitely be” McLaughlin (1884-1890);

Paddy “It’s always sunny in Philly” O’Connor (1908-1918);

Sleeper “If only fantasy baseball existed in the late 1800’s” Sullivan (1881-1884);

and last but gosh-darned certainly not least:

Cyclone “I will fight you like a Cyclone” Ryan (1887-1891).

While these former Irish-American baseball players may not garner the same household recognition as Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth do, I urge you all to raise your glasses this St. Patrick’s Day and salute them. 

Because if they were alive and gearing up towards Opening Day like we all are, they’d be raising them to us as well.