Strong N.Y. Connections In Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees

New York was well represented in today’s Irish American Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant.  Of the seven honorees, four have lose ties to the Big Apple, spanning more than a century.

The four entries with New York ties include:

  • Jimmy Breslin, author of one of the most famous baseball books ever written, Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?, which chronicled the 1962 New York Mets inaugural season;
  • Gene Michael, former player, scout and GM responsible for signing Yankees players including Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera, among others;
  • Jeff Nelson, longtime reliever, four-time World Series champion with the Yankees;
  • “Wee Willie” Keeler, a legend of the Dead Ball era and member of the New York Highlanders when nearly a third of major league players were of Irish descent

Also inducted today were:

  • Tom Kelly, two-time World Series champion manager with the Minnesota Twins;
  • “Walpole Joe” Morgan, popular former player, scout and manager of Boston Red Sox;
  • Mike Roarke, who has been instrumental in the development of the game of baseball in Ireland and is credited with teaching the split-fingered fastball to Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter.
Willie Keeler

“I’m at a loss for superlatives about this group, which includes a journalistic legend, a man who built a modern dynasty, an intimidating 6 ft. 8″ reliever, and a 5 ft. 4” outfielder who ‘Hit ’em Where They Ain’t’,” said Shaun Clancy, president of the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame and owner of Foley’s, which features one of the country’s most extensive public displays of baseball memorabilia.  “Collectively, our 2012 inductees possess a dozen World Series rings.”

With a blessing from Cooperstown, Foley’s, a popular destination among baseball players, executives, umpires and fans, created the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame to recognize players, managers, executives, journalists, and entertainers of Irish descent.  Inductees are chosen based on a combination of factors, including 1) impact on the game, 2) popularity on and off the field, 3) contributions to society, and 4) ancestry.  Voters include past inductees into the Hall and a panel of baseball historians.

The game of baseball has welcomed immigrants from its earliest days, when an estimated 30 percent of players claimed Irish heritage.  Many of the game’s biggest stars at the turn of the 20th century were Irish immigrants or their descendants, including Michael “King” Kelly, Roger Connor (the home run king before Babe Ruth), Eddie Collins, Big Ed Walsh and managers Connie Mack and John McGraw.  Today, major league teams regularly sign players born in Latin America, Japan, Canada, and elsewhere.

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