On March 14, 1953 Tim Ireland was born. On March 17 across the world, everyone is “ Irish for the day.” It is therefore hard to imagine a week better suited to creating the All-Ireland team
It must be said that were it not this week, and he did not have that name, Tim Ireland would not have drawn a second look from me. Ireland managed a grand total of eight Major League plate appearances. In those eight appearances, he drew one walk and managed one hit, a single. That gives him a career OPS+ of 12 for those of you keeping track at home.
But Tim is really just an excuse to get to today’s real topic, the All-Ireland team. Tomorrow honors the 1550th anniversary (that’s give or take a few years) of Saint Patrick’s converting Ireland to Christianity, or driving the snakes out or whatever it is one believes he did. Bearing that in mind, and to honor our friend Tim Ireland, it only seems fitting to create the All-Ireland team.
First, a few ground rules. To qualify for the All-Ireland team, a player must have been born in Ireland. Tempting though it is to put every Tom, Dick and O’Brien on the squad, one has to set limits. Since this does somewhat limit our pool of players, I’m giving myself a little freedom in assigning positions. A player can be slotted anywhere he appeared in the course of his career. I’m also giving preference to long careers; longevity is rewarded over flash-in-the-pan success. That’s all the rules, so pull up a chair, pour yourself a Guinness (or a Bailey’s, if like me you think Guinness tastes like mud) and celebrate the Ireland Mean Green.
Catcher: Jimmy Archer: For reasons I won’t begin to guess at, catcher is far-and-away the most popular position among Irish players. Despite the competition, Archer wins the spot. In addition to having a really solid Irish name (James Patrick Archer) he also was a decent hitting catcher with occasional power. He also finished with a fielding percentage better than league average. All said, that combines for a solid presence behind the plate.
First Base: Jack Doyle: Known as “Dirty Jack,” Doyle was a good hitter whose career spanned three decades. Doyle could hit for average, finishing just below .300 for his career. He also was a base stealing threat in his youth, finishing in the top 10 in that category four times. Doyle was also a good enough infielder to see time at second and shortstop in his career.
Second Base: Reddy Mack: Mack is something of a mystery, being that his handedness both afield and at bat are unknown, as is the exact location of his Irish birthplace. He nonetheless makes the squad based on a better than average career OPS. It’s true he made around 90 errors per 150 games, but everyone did in the days when Mack played.
Third Base: Mike Muldoon: Muldoon comes from an era when third base defense was highly valued, often more so than second. Unfortunately, this makes him the weak link offensively on the team. Muldoon did once finish second in the National League in home runs (with six) but was otherwise a poor hitter, even relative to the time he played. Nonetheless, Muldoon can bat eighth and hopefully provide some power.
Shortstop: Jimmy Hallinan: If catchers were the most popular position for the Irish, when it came to shortstops, most teams were apparently singing this song. Hallinan only saw 111 games at shortstop but was a strong hitter. He finished his career with a 122 OPS+, and a .287 average. Like his double-play partner, his dreadful error totals are a reflection on the time he played.
Left Field: Andy Leonard: Leonard played all but one year of his career in the 1870s, so his statistics should be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, he hit over .300 four times, appeared in the top 10 in times on-base percentage three times and the top 10 in extra base hits twice. His range factor is slightly below average but given his capacities as a hitter that’s something the team will have to live with.
Center Field: Curry Foley: Foley actually saw the most time on the diamond as a pitcher (going 27-27, 3.54—when that wasn’t a good ERA) but he also appeared in center field for a handful of games. Foley’s time in the outfield came thanks to his abilities as a hitter. His best years offensively came in 1880 and 1882 and one can only guess if Foley would have been best served by giving up the pitching and focusing on his hitting.
Right Field: Patsy Donovan: Probably the greatest Irish ballplayer to ever live, Patrick “Patsy” Donovan mans right field for his national squad. Donovan’s career began in 1890 and he would last as a regular all the way to 1904. Along the way he played in more than 1800 games, hit better than .300, led the league in steals—he still ranks thirtieth all-time—and hit .471 in post-season play. For good measure, he’s also number 78 on the all-time managerial win list, ahead of names like Cito Gaston and Gil Hodges.
Pitcher: Tony Mullane: Known as “The Apollo of the Box” Mullane was a brilliant pitcher but is today most famously remembered for his ability to pitch with both hands. Over the course of a 13 year career Mullane had 284 official wins with a 3.01 ERA, although the former number is probably much higher when exhibition games are brought into the ledger. Mullane was also one of those players who managed to think himself greater than he was, despite being pretty darn good. Nonetheless, he gives the Mean Green a chance every time he takes the mound.
Manager: Ted Sullivan: Since Patsy Donovan isn’t available as a player-manager, Ted Sullivan will have the job. Sullivan finished with a career .500 record (132-132) but did win a pennant with the marvelously named St. Louis Maroons in 1884. Given my team has no bench and no pitchers besides Mullane, his job figures to be pretty easy.
So how would this squad do? Well, truthfully not very well. Any loyal Irish fans would be well advised to bring a flask full of Jameson to each game; it will make it go a lot faster.