BOSTON -- While Darren O'Day's father, Ralph, and one of his two uncles decided to formally change their last name in tribute to their mother, the Orioles' reliever is using the Players Weekend platform to honor her and the family by putting "Odachowski" on the back of his jersey.It is
BOSTON -- While Darren O'Day's father, Ralph, and one of his two uncles decided to formally change their last name in tribute to their mother, the Orioles' reliever is using the Players Weekend platform to honor her and the family by putting "Odachowski" on the back of his jersey.
It is the O'Day family's original last name, of Polish decent, which has been transformed over the years, leaving many to believe that right-hander has Irish blood in him.
On the contrary, as both O'Day's grandfather, Stanley, and grandmother, Geraldine, were multigenerational Polish living in Chicago, where the two met, married and had three boys together.
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Stanley went off to fight in World War II, but like many, he returned a changed man -- in a time where post-traumatic stress disorder wasn't even in the lexicon. He would pass away at an early age, leaving Geraldine to raise three frisky young boys.
"They lived on the North Side of Chicago before the North Side was a nice area to live," O'Day said. "The stories my dad tells me of them getting in trouble, causing trouble. … Being a parent now, having a 2-year-old daughter, I can't imagine raising one on my own, let alone three, especially three boys. She must have been some kind of woman."
Geraldine passed away when O'Day was very young, so he has no personal memories of her. But he smiles widely when sharing the stories that his father has shared with him over the years, including how the name came to be.
At a time when a Polish last name might have brought some undue negative attention, Geraldine shortened it when she began working at Montgomery Ward in Chicago.
She became Gerry O'Dach, which when pronounced with the Polish inflection sounds like O'Day, a name she would be known by throughout her working days.
When it came time to choose nicknames for Players Weekend, O'Day knew exactly what he wanted on the back of his jersey.
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"It's a cool opportunity," O'Day said. "I didn't have any other thoughts in mind. I thought it would be a picture of what it could have looked like if they hadn't changed the name. They did it for good reasons. The story behind it is pretty neat."
Although St. Patrick's Day can be a bit confusing for those unfamiliar with O'Day's history, he's happy to get a chance to show off and share his true origin story.
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He's also happy to be able to create such a great keepsake with the original name on his jersey as well -- something he and the entire family can enjoy.
"I'm definitely going to buy some [jerseys]," O'Day said. "I think it's pretty neat. I'll definitely put one on my wall and buy a few more."
Craig Forde is a contributor to MLB.com based in Boston who covered the Orioles on Saturday.