Did You Know? – Irish Red Sox Ballplayers

A short time ago, we took a quick look back at Japanese ballplayers that have played for the Boston Red Sox. With today being St. Patrick’s Day and the team breaking out the green uniforms for its game at Fort Myers this afternoon, it made us wonder about how much of an Irish influence there has been on the franchise in team history. Of course, Boston has always had a rather large population of Irish descent and it would not be surprising to find that there have been several players with Irish heritage to wear a Red Sox cap, but we were curious as to how many Boston players were native to the Emerald Isle.

As it turns out, according to Baseball-Reference.com, there has been exactly one player born in the Land of Saints and Scholars: the legendary flycatcher Jimmy Walsh. Well, actually, not quite that legendary, as he played just the better part of six seasons with three American League teams and was barely a blip on the radar in Red Sox history. Born in Kallila, Ireland, he began his career in 1912 with the Philadelphia Athletics following a trade from the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. He was picked up by the New York Yankees to begin the 1914 season, but was then traded back to Philadelphia at mid-season; just over two years later, in early September, he found himself traded once again, this time to the Boston Red Sox. After a brief appearance with the club in 1916, Walsh returned to play the entire 1917 season in Boston, but that would mark the end of a rather unremarkable career in which he batted just .232.

The only other individual to have donned a Red Sox uniform was Patsy Donovan, born in Queenstown, Ireland and who played 17 seasons, mostly in the National League, as one of baseball’s top outfielders between 1890 and 1907. His career numbers were much better than what Walsh accomplished: over 2000 hits, a .301 career batting average, and 518 stolen bases, having finished in the top 10 five times in his career and leading the league one year (1900) with 45 for the St. Louis Cardinals. He often served as a player-manager, taking on that role eight times in his career. However, his playing days were behind him when he accepted an offer to manage the Boston Red Sox in 1910. In two seasons at the helm, Donovan compiled a record of 159-147, but the team seemed to take a step backwards during his tenure as they finished fourth and fifth, respectively. As the Red Sox prepared to move from the Huntington Avenue Grounds into a brand-new venue named Fenway Park, Donovan was replaced by player-manager Jack Stahl; Stahl immediately turned the club around, not only winning a franchise single-season record 105 games but the club’s second World Series title.

As a final note: in total, according to Baseball-Reference.com, there have been exactly 40 players born in Ireland to play baseball for a professional major league club. As would be somewhat expected, most played in the nineteenth century, with only nine such players to have donned a uniform in the 20th century. In fact, the last Irish national to play for either an American or National League club was Joe Cleary, born in Cork, Ireland in 1918, who appeared in exactly one game as a relief pitcher for the Washington Senators (later the Minnesota Twins) in 1945. In just one-third of an inning pitched, he gave up seven runs on five hits and three walks, giving him a career ERA of 189.00, and the only out he managed came by way of a strikeout.