Archived Story

Irish eyes smiled on these athletes

Published 9:30pm Friday, March 14, 2014

With St. Patrick’s Day looming, I’ve had Irish on the brain lately.
It’s not really something I’ve taken significant time from my day to ponder, but since this is technically in the “holiday spirit” I asked myself about any noteworthy athletes with roots in the land of the four-leaf clovers.
I was surprised to find out just how many great sports figures can claim ancestors across the pond.
So with that said – plus a little bit of deliberation – I decided to do a countdown of the five best Irish-American athletes of all time.While some (or all) of you may not necessarily agree with the list… Well, you can feel free to make your own.
So let’s begin.
5. Kevin McHale: When you talk about the Boston Celtics of the 1980s, the most prevalent name that comes up is – with good reason – Larry Bird.
However, while he may have been that team’s best player, NBA (and hero) lore has suggested that every star (or hero) player needs a trusty sidekick to take the heat off of them on occasion. For Bird and the Celtics, Kevin McHale was that man.
Good for 20-plus points, eight boards and all-world defense in his heyday, McHale was a driving force behind the championships Beantown secured in the Association. That success has translated to the sidelines, as evidenced by the performance of the Houston Rockets this season.
4. Derek Jeter: As surprised as I was to find that he had some Irish in him, I knew he had to be on this list. After all, he may be considered the greatest Yankee not named Ruth to ever don the pinstripes.
He’s won championships, he’s got stats, All-Star selections, Gold Gloves and if you into that, quite the off-field track record in his personal life.
But the respect he has from his peers and his consistency lands him on this list. And I don’t even like the Yankees.
3. Nolan Ryan: Like McHale, I never saw Ryan play. But I’ve done enough reading on the Ryan Express to know that in his prime he was the most intimidating pitcher to ever step on the mound.
His 5,714 strikeouts (an MLB record by more than 800) and seven no-hitters (no other pitcher has more than four) are highly impressive, yes. But perhaps the most astounding feat he’s accomplished is that he struck out more batters than the amount of innings he pitched. Ridiculous.
2. John Stockton: Short-shorts notwithstanding, this guy may be the best pure pass-first point guard the NBA has ever known. Alongside Karl Malone, the pick-and-roll was nigh unstoppable.
In addition, he was a multi-time All-Star known for his defense and play-making ability. The reason he’s on this though was because I actually saw him play, and I knew that in terms of running a team, no one was better than he was. Coincidentally enough, he’s the only Irishman on this list without a championship. But the number one guy on this list  doesn’t have that problem.
1. Tom Brady: Forget the numbers, the comeback wins, the individual accolades, the Super Bowl titles and his apparent “leading man” looks.
All you need to know is this: He married Gisele. He benefitted from the Tuck Rule.
The Luck of the Irish is a very real thing. Brady proves it. Therefore, he’s number one.
Bailey is sports editor for The Outlook.