A birthday comes only once a year, and there was only one The Only Nolan
On Nov. 7, 1857, a man was born in Canada with the name Edward Sylvester Nolan. But that was not the name he was to be remembered by.
Nolan, who pitched in parts of five seasons with the Indianapolis Blues, Cleveland Blues, Pittsburgh Alleghenys, Wilmington Quicksteps and Philadelphia Quakers of 1870s-80s MLB, was known in his time as "The Only Nolan."
Nolan had a checkered off-the-field record that included being kicked off two teams: first from Indianapolis, for asking for a day off to attend a funeral but getting drunk instead; and then from Cleveland, for "confirmed dissipation and general insubordination." The source of his nickname, though, is not clear.
Theories include him being an egotist who wanted to be "the only" pitcher his team employed or that it was a sarcastic reaction to his mediocre performance ("the only" was sometimes used at the time to mean "the best").
Nolan died in 1913 and the explanation went with him. Whatever the reason, The Only Nolan is the only The Only in MLB history.
-- The Only Dan Wohl / MLB.com