The Mets called up pitcher P.J. Conlon, making him the first Irish-born MLB player since World War II
While it's a fitting reward for the left-hander with a career 2.68 ERA in the Minor Leagues despite a fastball that sits in the 80s, there is an even bigger reason to be excited: He'll be the first Irish-born player since 1945.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Conlon "spent the first two years of his life on Rockville Street off the Falls Road. His parents, who had both spent time in America in their youth, eventually decided California's Orange County (ironically enough) offered greater opportunities for their nascent family."
It won't take much for Conlon to top the performance of the last Irish-born ballplayer: That's because the Cork-born Joe Cleary took the mound for the Washington Senators on Aug. 4, 1945 and lasted just 1/3 of an inning while giving up seven runs on five hits and three walks.
"You know, in the neighborhood bars they kid me," Cleary, who later ran his own bar, told author Brent Kelley before his death in 2004. "I take an awful needlin' about that, that one appearance. The main thing I get kidded about is the earned run average; it's the highest in Major League history, you know. [laughs] But I always say to them, 'I was there.'"
It's odd that the wait has been so long because, despite the three generations between Cleary and today, Conlon will actually be the 49th Irish-born player in the Majors. However, 47 of those played before 1918.
That mirrors the large influx of Irish immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who adapted to life in the United States by playing baseball. Perhaps the biggest name is Tommy Bond (born in Granard), who won 234 games and recorded the first ever pitcher's triple crown by leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts in 1877. He is still honored by the Irish Baseball League today, with the best pitcher earning the Tommy Bond Award.
Hopefully, with a strong performance by Conlon, we won't have to wait another 73 years for the next Irish ballplayer.