Friday, November 25, 2016

Dodger Ties to the Irish Independence Movement and Great Irish Tenor John McCormack

I keep running into fascinating Dodgers ephemera at Lelands most recently closed auction, and as long as that continues I'll be sure to share what I find.  Featured here is a vintage leaflet/program detailing various upcoming events at Ebbets Field for the latter months of the 1919 year.  It did not sell at Lelands recent auction.  (Auction Link)

As you will recall, 1919 has a spacial place in Baseball history -- and not for the right reason.  This was the year of the infamous Black Sox scandal -- when a clearly superior Chicago White Sox team lead by Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Collins surprisingly lost to the Edd Roush and the Cincinnati Reds in what we now know was a fixed match.  Eight ballplayers; including the great Shoeless Joe, would subsequently be banned from the game a couple years later.

As for the Dodgers, they were bad... Really, bad.  They finished the season in 5th place (69-71) and a full 27 games behind the Reds.  The season had an inauspicious start when they traded away one of their most productive and popular players, first baseman Jake Daubert, to the Reds before spring.  He would eventually help lead the World Series bound Reds to a championship. 

Still, the Dodgers were competitive out of the gate.  Through the first ten games they were 8-1-1, and looked like they just might compete.  By June, that dream had diminished.  A ten game losing streak during the middle of that month spelled doom.  The season had became a disaster.  By the time the above pamphlet was released, the week of August 12th, the Dodgers were 19.5 game back. 

As you can see above, famed Irish Tenor John McCormack was a main guest for an event scheduled for September 21st.  The Dodgers were on the road in Cincinnati.  The event in Brooklyn was billed as a "Grand Demonstration for benefit of Friends of Irish Freedom" -- which was an Irish-American Republican group that provided financial support for Irish independence.  Several years later the Republic of Ireland would be formed.

I am unsure exactly how much money was raised in this effort, but I did find the below story in the Brooklyn Eagle, dated Sunday, September 21st, p.44:
Track athletics and baseball will feature the field day of the Friends of Irish Freedom at Ebbets Field this afternoon.  Some of the best athletes in the metropolitan district will be seen in action in a varied assortment of events.  An attendance of 20,000 is expected.  The entire proceeds will be devoted to the Irish Fund.

Chief among the features will be a baseball game between the nines of Robins Dry Dock and St. Agatha's Catholic Club, two of Brooklyn's strongest semi-professional aggregations/  There is a bitter rivalry between these teams and a keenly contested struggle is looked for.  Supreme Court Justice Daniel P. Cohalan will throw out the first ball.

A Medley relay race in which six strong teams will go to the post will be the main attraction among the track events.  A tug-a-was competition has attracted the best clubs in this vicinity.  There will be special races for women.

In the vaudeville that has been arranged, in addition to the athletic program will appear many of the leading performers of the stage and a real Broadway bill will be staged.  The bands of St. John's Orphan Asylum and Todd's Shipyards will play throughout the afternoon.

Among the guest will be many city and state officials and notables in all walks of life.  When President Eamonn de Valera was in Brooklyn on Thursday he promised to attend if he could re-arrange his speaking tour.

The Rev. Edward J. O'Reilly, head of the Brooklyn Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom, promises a number of surprises and predicts that the afternoon will be one long to be remembered.

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