Cavan native and the first Irishman to play Major League Baseball, Andrew ‘Andy’ Jackson Leonard, has been nominated for induction into Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame.
Just weeks after items of memorabilia, including letters and contracts, signed by Leonard in the 1870s reached over $60,000 at auction, interest in the Finea man who played for the Boston Red Stockings and Washington Olympics baseball teams is at an all time high.
Born in 1846, the son of Ann Liddy and Andrew Leonard, his family escaped the famine, settling in Newark, New Jersey. The famous left-fielder is though best known as a member of the famed 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, nicknamed in baseball folklore as ‘The First Boys of Summer’.
Described by future ‘Hall of Famer’ Cap Anson as one of the 19th century’s top performers, Leonard is said to have been “a splendid judge of high balls, a sure catch… a swift and accurate long-distance thrower… a good batsman and a splendid base runner”.
The move to elevate Leonard to the pantheon of the game’s pioneers has been welcomed by the Cavan Comets baseball team, who announced their own intention to have the player further remembered here on home soil.
While the most outstanding player in the Irish Baseball League already receives the annual Andy Leonard League Most Valuable Player Award, Comets team manager Adrian Kelly told The Anglo-Celt the Hall of Fame nomination is “just reward” for his contribution to the game.
Hoping to erect a plaque in Leonard’s honour, it would mirror current plans across the Atlantic where the grandson of the late sportsman hopes to use the auction proceeds to build a monument to his grandfather whose remains lie in an unmarked grave in Boston following his death in 1903.
“He is an important person in Irish sporting history, a legend of the game, who set a marker for others from Ireland to follow in his footsteps,” Mr Kelly said.
“Andy set a standard for which other Irish baseball players followed, including the four O’Neill brothers from Galway, in a league dominated by Irish players in the early part of the 20th century.”
The Comets, who plan on playing their future games at the impressive Clones Erne East Sports Partnership community sporting complex, are currently finalising the details of their proposed tribute.
“What we can say at this moment in time is that our ambition would be to hold a ceremony on June 1. Andy will have been born 170 years ago on that date and it is important for ourselves, the county and the sport to remember a legacy such as his.”
Leonard’s name is among ten potential honourees for Hall of Fame, which also includes current and former players, managers, broadcasters, and baseball executives.
Results of the voting will be announced next month with an official induction ceremony to take place at Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant, owned by Butlersbridge native Shaun Clancy, who began the Hall of Fame awards in 2008 after learning of the rich heritage of Irish American baseball.