The Fr. Bernard Donnelly Hibernians in Johnson County, Kansas were instrumental in advocating to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly that she sign an official declaration naming March Irish American Heritage Month in the State of Kansas. Governor Kelly signed the declaration on March 1st, honoring the more than 340,000 Kansans of Irish descent who “have played a vital role in shaping Kansas’s history and culture.”
The Donnelly Division President Zach Kittle led the effort in contacting the Governor’s office in Topeka, and received the physical proclamation from the Governor, which was announced at the March meeting of the Donnelly Hibernians in Overland Park, Kansas. This proclamation not only honors the memories of Irish immigrants and their descendants who settled in Kansas, but also will help promote the causes of the Irish American community in the state, including the growth of the AOH in cities across Kansas.
This proclamation comes at a time when the Donnelly Hibernians have been working with prospective brothers throughout Kansas at founding a number of new divisions in the state in cities like Lawrence, Leavenworth, and Wichita. Historically, Kansas was home to as many as 12 Hibernian divisions, though most of them closed down in the years after World War II. The Donnelly Division was founded in 2002 and has represented the Irish community in Kansas as well as in the bi-state Kansas City metropolitan area.
Hibernian Brother Seán Thomas Kane, of the Fr. Bernard Donnelly Division, gave an entertaining talk at the Kansas City Irish Fest over the Labor Day weekend. The presentation highlighted the 48 Irish immigrants who have played in Major League Baseball since the 1870s. Kane focused his lecture on some of the more colorful Irish-born players.
Ed Duffy, in 1871, became the first Irish immigrant to play professional baseball. Hugh Daily, one of the top professional pitchers of the 1880s, threw 483 strikeouts in one season, including 19 in one game. On the other side of baseball notoriety, Joe Cleary holds the record for the highest Earned Run Average for any pitcher. The Cork native in his one major league game recorded an ERA of 189.0. That was in 1945, and it was 67 years before the next Irish-born player was seen in another major league game.
Brother Kane discussed local Kansas City baseball history, including two of the city’s pre-Royals’ professional teams: the Kansas City Cowboys (1880s) and the Kansas City Athletics (1955-1967). Local Irish baseball players Barney and Frank McLaughlin played for the Cowboys during the 1884 season. Currently, there is only one Irish-born professional player, Belfast native P.J. Conlon, who pitches for the New York Mets’ AAA team the Las Vegas 51s.
An Irish Cultural Tent is always a part of the annual Kansas City Irish Fest, held at Crown Center in downtown Kansas City every Labor Day weekend. Seán has frequently contributed to these cultural workshops, making presentations on other aspects of Irish history and culture. Seán is earning his master’s degree in history at the University of Missouri–Kansas City where he is studying the Renaissance and Early Modern European history. Seán is also a published author. His latest book, Erasmus Plumwood is available on Amazon.