What's This All About?
Remember, even if you lose all, keep your good name.
For if you lose that, you are worthless.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, when we celebrate Ireland's patron saint driving all the player agents -- er, snakes -- out of the old country, this week's Hall of Names nominees come with the ruddy look of a hard day's work, a pint of Guinness, and an afternoon in the bleachers at Fenway.
The question: What caliber of major league team can we assemble using only players who bear the most common Irish surnames?
The rules: Working from a list of the 100 Most Common Surnames in Ireland provided by Celtic Origins, we will conduct a "draft" of one player representing each of the most common names until we've filled out a roster. We'll start with the most common name (Murphy) and hopefully have a decent roster before we're resorting to the three-generation Bell family at #89.
Eligible players need not actually be Irish, just bear a common Irish name. For example, if we do get to the Bells, former Toronto OF George Bell, not precisely the model of a Dubliner, will be eligible. We call this the John Kerry rule.
Position eligibility will be considered as we get deeper into the "draft." The roster will have a starting lineup, including a designated hitter (if you've ever been to an Irish pub in Shannon, you know why a designated hitter is a no-brainer), an 11-man pitching staff and a five-man bench. The pitching staff and bench must fill all the standard roles on a big league team, including backup catcher and long reliever/spot starter.
Ready? Let's go ... after all, "Is fear rith maith na drochsheasamh" ("A good run is better than a bad stand").
Round 1: MURPHY
With apologies to the other 35 Murphys who've played big league ball, including the fine former Oakland OF Dwayne and the All-Star Yankee reliever of the 1930's Johnny, this one is easy. The first pick of the draft is two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy, who sounds like a good bet to start in CF.
Round 2: KELLY
There have been 32 Kellys who've appeared in a big league game -- not including those players "graced" with Kelly as a first name. Two were Hall of Famers and two more made All-Star teams -- but we'll spend our second pick on Hall of Fame 1B George Kelly, known primarily for his glovework as he posted a .297 career BA in the heart of the Ruth era.
Round 3: SULLIVAN
Of the 40 Sullivans available to us, the only one ever to even sniff All-Star status was Frank, an 18-game winner for the '55 Red Sox. He takes the first spot as a starting pitcher, but odds are good there will be some decent hurlers available later who will bump him back in the rotation.
Round 4: WALSH
Ah, speaking of front-line hurlers, Easy Ed Walsh won 168 games in a seven-year span for the turn-of-the-last-century Chicago White Sox, including an astounding 40 in one season. He only managed 27 wins in his other seven years, though that's hardly enough of a falloff to jump any of the other 17 big league Walshes ahead of him on our draft board.
Round 5: SMITH
Here's where that "doesn't actually have to be Irish" rule comes in handy. Say, do we have a shortstop yet? No? Hmm. Welcome aboard, Ozzie.
Round 6: O'BRIEN
Two dozen O'Briens populate the scrolls of baseball history, but we're already left with a reach; gambling that a better catcher will be available later and leaving 15-year defensive stalwart Charlie on the board, we'll opt for a solid left-handed bat likely to come off the bench. Pete O'Brien drove in 80 or more runs six times with the Rangers and Mariners.
Round 7: BYRNE
Time to grab a lefty for the rotation; Tommy Byrne managed three seasons of 15 or more wins (and an All-Star appearance) for the Yankees. As an added bonus, he was an excellent hitter, relatively speaking, managing a .238 average and 14 homers in just 601 career at-bats.
Round 8: RYAN
Nolan. Any questions?
Round 9: O'CONNOR
You don't know Jack? The sturdy Missouri native took the "Show Me" motto to heart, playing every position except pitcher as he bounced around three major leagues from 1887-1910, collecting more than 1,400 hits and more than 200 steals in 21 seasons. His primary position was catcher, and he spent some time managing, so Jack O'Connor at least seems like the kind of guy you want on your bench.
Round 10: O'NEILL
Love him or hate him, unless you're a fan of Stargate: SG-1, there's no O'Neill you'd rather have on your team more than abrasive, over-the-top Paul -- he of the .288 career average, 281 homers, 141 SB and 1,269 RBI in 17 seasons.
Round 11: O'REILLY
In the first controversy of the All-Irish Team draft, we are forced to pass ... there has never been a big league ballplayer with the last name "O'Reilly." The last time a player with even a version of that name ("Reilly") appeared was 1919. No "Rileys" were considered.
Round 12: DOYLE
With an infield that already includes defensive wizards Ozzie Smith at SS and George Wright at 1B, we'd love to get some power from the 2B position. It surely won't come from this round, but Denny Doyle and his 944 games as a .250 hitter nose out younger brother Brian's brief 1978 World Series heroics. Sure would love to stretch the rules for a wiley old veteran pitcher like Doyle Alexander, but it's not to be.
Round 13: MCCARTHY
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a manager. Joe McCarthy won 2,125 games and guided his teams to seven World Series titles in nine appearances over a 24-year span. This Hall of Famer might do OK for us.
Round 14: GALLAGHER
Of the (unlucky?) 13 men named Gallagher to don a big league uni, the best was probably journeyman outfielder Dave who hit .271 in parts of nine seasons. His perhaps overrated reputation as an excellent defensive flycatcher will earn him plenty of bench time on this squad.
Round 15: DOHERTY
Two men bearing this magnificent surname have reached the pinnacle of baseball success -- and both were named John. John M. Doherty cobbled together 317 at-bats as a .240-hitting DH/1B for the 1974-1975 California Angels. Our pick, though, is John H. Doherty, a 14-game winner at the age of 26 for the '93 Tigers who was out of the bigs due to injury before turning 30.
Round 16: KENNEDY
Not pulling the trigger on Charlie O'Brien way back in Round 6 proves to be a good idea as former All-Star backstop Terry Kennedy, falls into our laps here, bringing with him 14 years of time primarily with the Cardinal and Padres.
Round 17: LYNCH
With Gallagher a solid right-handed-hitting bench OF, we complement him with the addition of left-handed-hitting OF Jerry Lynch, a .277 career hitter with some pop -- six double-figure home run seasons -- in 13 years with the Pirates and Reds in the 1950's and 1960's.
Round 18: MURRAY
As long as you're going to use the DH, you might as well have one who's versatile. Consistent run producer, maybe a little pop in his bat. Maybe a switch-hitter. Maybe a switch-hitter with 3,000 career hits and 500 career home runs. Maybe Eddie Murray.
Round 19: QUINN
Spare the "Mighty Quinn" jokes; none of the dozen major leaguers bearing that name deserve a "mighty" nickname. But we'll go with another solid right-handed starter, Jack Quinn, who notched 247 wins in 23 seasons beginning in 1909, including back-to-back 26-win and 22-loss seasons in the ill-fated Federal League.
Heading into the 20th round it's not hard to figure out that the bullpen is sorely lacking in true relievers. Be it the luck of the Irish or not, though, the next three rounds all turned out to produce former "closers.
Round 20: MOORE
Round 21: MCLAUGHLIN
Round 22: CARROLL
Before the much-publicized tragic end to his career and life, Donnie Moore was an all-star reliever for the Angels and notched 89 career saves. Jays fans might not even remember the brief time during which Joey McLaughlin was the team's ninth-inning guy, as he led the '80 team with 10 saves. And as the one-time National League single-season saves record -- when that meant something -- with 37 for the '72 Reds, Clay Carroll is a nice addition to any team.
Round 23: CONNOLLY
The great game has produced a single Hall of Famer named Connolly ... and Tom was an umpire. But we've drafted a manager, so come on board, blue.
Through 23 rounds, we've filled 20 roster spots; we're still looking for a starting 3B, another OF (preferably one who can start ahead of Gallagher and Lynch), a utility IF and some bullpen depth to fill out our 25-man squad.
Round 24: DALY
Round 25: O'CONNELL
Round 26: WILSON
Round 27: DUNNE
Round 28: BRENNAN
The next two picks provide a couple of guys who can alternate as the starting 3B and as the utility infielder; Tom "Tido" Daly had more than 1,500 career hits and hit .271 as a scrappy little 5'7" switch-hitter from 1887-1903, mostly with the Dodgers. And Danny O'Connell was a light-hitting (.260 career) infielder who hung around for 10 years with four teams mostly in the late 1950's. Neither one is Mike Schmidt -- or even Ray Knight, really -- but they'll handle the hot corner capably.
Round 26 and we're still looking for a starting left fielder ... I guess the man who has held the single-season RBI record for nearly 75 years is a good fit. Hack Wilson, come on down. The final two pitching spots go to
Mike Dunne, who had 13 wins as a rookie for the '87 Pirates and Tom Brennan, who bounced around with the Indians, Dodgers and White Sox in the early 1980's.
And so, the draft concludes -- despite the protests of manager McCarthy, who petitioned to extend it an additional five supplemental rounds, which would have opened the door for two more former All-Star closers in Tim Burke and Bill Campbell, a Hall of Fame 2B in Eddie Collins, a 340-homer guy in Jack Clark and the hellish 33rd-round choice between arguably the greatest right-handed starting pitcher of all time and arguably the greatest left-handed starting pitcher of all time.
Working our way through the entire list of 100 names, we could very likely fill a competitive eight-team league with players named Brown, White, Sweeney, Hayes, Casey, Flanagan, Griffin, Reid, Graham (Moonlight?) -- not to mention Robinson and Bell. But it's not to be; rules are rules (for the most part).
So here's our All-Irish All-Star Team:
MGR Joe McCarthy
UMP Tom Connolly
C Terry Kennedy
1B George Kelly
2B Denny Doyle
SS Ozzie Smith
3B Tido Daly
RF Paul O'Neill
CF Dale Murphy
LF Hack Wilson
DH Eddie Murray
SP Nolan Ryan
SP Ed Walsh
SP Tommy Byrne
SP Frank Sullivan
SP Jack Quinn
SW John Doherty
SW Mike Dunne
RP Donnie Moore
RP Joey McLaughlin
RP Clay Carroll
RP Tom Brennan
Pete O'Brien, 1B/OF
Jack O'Connor C/IF
Dave Gallagher, OF
Jerry Lynch, OF
Danny O'Connell, IF
Get your Irish up. Who's missing?