by Tim Carr
Research done during the first quarter of 2023 has uncovered four more baseball players with Irish roots in Dublin, Armagh, Kildare, Kilkenny, and Sligo.
This group of four are interesting and colorful in their own ways but one stands out among the others from a pure talent point of view: Mickey Mantle. The others were also accomplished major leaguers during their respective eras: Rick Dempsey, Wild Bill Donovan, and Arthur Irwin.
Mickey Mantle: Dublin and Armagh
Mickey’s 3X Great Grandfather on his Mantle line was Patrick Moore (1768-1836) was born in Dublin, Ireland. In addition, Mickey has another 3X Great Grandfather on his Grandmother’s line – Alexander Powers (1765-1830) from County Armagh, Ireland. Mickey Mantle was one of the best players who ever lived, played his entire career for the New York Yankees in the 1950’s and 60’s. Although his career was plagued with injuries, he put up historic numbers. His 536 Homeruns were good enough for 3rd all time when he retired, behind only Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, though he played fewer career games than both of them.
The Mays vs. Mantle discussion has been had many times over the years and they are both certainly deserving of such a title. But I was surprised when I looked closer at their statistics. Mays bested Mantle in batting average slightly, .301 to .298, but Mantle surpassed him at the OPS level .977 to .940. Mantle holds a significant edge on OPS+ – 172 to 155. At bats per HR also goes to Mantle – 15.1 vs 16.6. Although not known for stolen bases, Mantle had a slightly higher successful steal percentage too – 78% to 76%. Finally, even though there are many ways to look at fielding, Mickey did have a higher fielding percentage than Willie – .982 to .981. Regardless of how you feel about that debate, Mickey certainly had an incredible career. It is a career that could have been even better. This writer is happy to welcome him to the Irish American database.
Rick Dempsey: Kildare
Next up is the Orioles catcher from the 1970’s, Rick Dempsey. He won two World Series, one with the O’s in 1983 and one with the Dodgers in 1988. He was considered a gifted catcher which allowed him to have a very long 24-year career without the benefit of being a great hitter. He also had a career after his playing days as a coach, manager and announcer. Rick is 5th generation Irish from his 3X Great Grandfather, Hugh Dempsey (1789-1849) born in County Kildare.
Wild Bill Donovan: Kilkenny
Wild Bill Donovan (1876-1923) was an effective, and at times, excellent pitcher in the big leagues during the dead ball era. He played for the Senators, Brooklyn and the Tigers and had his great success with Detroit playing in 3 World Series (1907-1909). He won 184 games during his 14 year career and then became a Manager, first with the Yankees then with the Phillies. With the Yankees, he became the first manager for Babe Ruth and guided him as a Pitcher. Bill’s mother, Mary Donovan nee Fitzgerald, was born in County Kilkenny. Bill was Irish on his Donovan side as well.
Arthur Irwin: Sligo
Arthur Irwin (1858-1921) was from the early days of baseball and had an interesting career and life and even a mysterious death. He had several nicknames like Foxy, Doc, Sandy and Cutrate. He was born in Toronto but grew up in Boston playing alongside baseball greats like Tommy McCarthy. He popularized the use of the glove in the field. He was the inspiration for not one, but two Zane Grey novels. He had a career that lasted forty years in various baseball roles. His death was ruled a suicide by jumping off a ship in the Atlantic Ocean due to being distraught with illness. But there were some who said they saw him living in Oklahoma after he supposedly died. He was a first generation Irishman whose father was from County Sligo.
Look for more additions in the near future!