I’ll be transparent, when I think of the Irish - athletic prowess is not generally what comes to mind. This idea came to me this morning as I frigidly stood in line at 8am to get into a local Irish pub for green beer and breakfast. The history of Irish athletes is far from famed, my mind goes straight to soccer greats George Best and Roy Keane. When I think of North American sports my mind draws a blank.
Enter - Google.
I was stunned to find out Muhammad Ali had a great-grandfather who emigrated from Ireland in the 1860’s, which lead me further down the rabbit hole of North American athletes of Irish heritage.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that over the years athletes with lineage tracing back to the Emerald Isle cover multiple generations. Jason Kidd, Kevin McHale, John Daly, John Elway, John McEnroe and sports icons Whitey Ford, Ben Hogan, Bobby Orr, Ted Williams and Nolan Ryan. That’s a pretty impressive list of hall of fame talent.
Going one step further I thought I would check out the best American athletes of Irish decent competing today, leading to a Rushmore.
When the Yankee shortstop steps away from the diamond after this season, he’ll go down in Yankee history as one of the best ever to wear pinstripes. My favorite Jeter stat; in the 2,602 regular-season games he appeared, only once were the Yankees mathematically eliminated from post season play. WTF... In 2000, Jeter became the first player in baseball history to win the MVP of the All-Star game and the World Series during the same season. One of the all-time greats.
The Golden Boy - The former sixth-round draft pick has led the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles, while winning two MVP awards and making nine Pro Bowls. When he eventually hangs up his cleats, he’ll go down as one of the greatest to ever play the most important position in sports and have legitimate credentials for a spot on the all-time Quarterback Rushmore. He also sports a little of the Irish temper.
The first overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft has lived up expectations, winning NHL’s Rookie of the year, two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy in 2013. Kane has deep roots in South Buffalo, a heavily Irish neighborhood, and was the first number one overall pick since Mario Lemieux in 1992 to win the Conn Smythe as Stanley Cup Playoff MVP. Kane also sports a taste for ale, not to embrace stereotypes.
The most decorated Olympian of all time, with 22 medals. I think that’s enough to qualify for the list. The 2008 Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year claims he’s retired but at 28, I refuse to believe it until he actually misses a Summer Olympics. He won 8 gold medals in eight events at the Beijing Olympics, setting world-records in seven of them.
This one with the help of the Irish luck.