Top of the mornin’ to ya! To get into the spirit of St. Patty’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d pay tribute to some of my all-time favorite athletes with Irish blood coursing through their veins. Now some might not consider all of them to be the greatest ever to play their respective sports, but there’s no denying they’re all pretty damn great. And while some are still building their careers, others have firmly cemented themselves in sports history. Here they are in no particular order…
Thought I’d start close to home with our homegrown Texas legend. Ryan of course holds the MLB record for career strikeouts with 5,714 and tossed a record 7 no-hitters, the last coming when he was 44-years-old with the Rangers. Ryan’s the only ballplayer to have his jersey retired by three teams – the Rangers, Astros and Angels. We all know Ryan joined the Baseball Hall 0f Fame in 1999, but did you know he was also inducted into the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011? Now you do.
McIlroy is actually from Northern Ireland of course, and he is making his nation proud seemingly with each tournament he plays in these days (not withstanding his 3-iron toss at Doral a week or so ago). McIlroy at only 25 years of age already has 16 career professional wins, including 4 Majors.
Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe
Connors and McEnroe may have both been born in the U.S., but their hard nosed attitudes and affinity to curse at line judges on the tennis court showed they are as Irish as anyone born on the Emerald Isle. Two of the greatest male tennis players ever, and both left-handed, Connors and McEnroe created one of the most storied rivalries in all of sports. Connors finished his amazing career with 8 Grand Slam singles titles while McEnroe won 7. As Connors put it in an interview with Inside Tennis magazine, “It was natural with myself and Mac. I had to fight. He was trying to take my position away as the best. He was seven years younger. He was American and he’s Irish. I’m Irish. It was natural.” I felt it only natural to include them together.
The 26-year-old right wing for the Chicago Blackhawks grew up in a heavily Irish district of South Buffalo. In his young career Kane has already hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup twice and taken home a Conn Smythe Trophy for the 2013 playoffs MVP. One of the most exciting young players in the league, Kane has already amassed 557 points in only 576 regular season games (205 goals, 352 assists).
Besides just having an Irish heritage on his father’s side, McHale gets the nod for his great years with the Boston Celtics (after all what screams Irish more than a Celtic?). He displayed a hard-nosed work ethic on the court in a city know for its Irish-American community, made seven NBA All-Star games, won three titles and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. McHale averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his illustrious 13-year career.
The grandson of a direct immigrant from Ireland, Orr is another player who represented the heavily Irish city that is Boston. Widely considered the best defenseman to ever lace up a pair of skate (some say best ever player ever – period), Orr compiled an amazing 915 points in 657 games and won two Stanley Cups. His incredible mix of speed, tenacity and ability with the puck made him almost impossible to stop.
And now for something completely different…..Click Here to see it! (Happy B-Day Murph!)