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Baseball Player Name of the Week

Posted By Emma Span On November 8, 2010 @ 2:57 pm In Bronx Banter,Emma Span,Player Name of the Week,Yankees | Comments Disabled

Today’s old-school classic is:


The Only Nolan [2].

His mother (presumably) called him Edward Sylvester, but The Only Nolan is certainly catchier. The origin of his nickname is the subject of some debate [3]; some say he was quite literally baseball’s single solitary Nolan, others that he reminded someone of then-famous burlesque performer Francis “The Only Leon” Leon [4], who performed in both blackface and drag. As usual I chose to believe the more interesting tale. In any case, while he is no longer baseball’s only Nolan he remains a noteworthy character.

According to Wikipedia, he was dropped from his first team, the Indianapolis Blues, in 1878 after claiming he had to attend a funeral and instead attending a saloon; BR Bullpen [5] has it that he was caught visiting a whorehouse instead of his brother. He hitched on with other teams, but in 1881 he was blacklisted [6]from the league (along with future Name-of-the-Week contender Lip Pike [7]) for “confirmed dissipation and general insubordination,” some variation of which I hope to have on my gravestone some day.

But you can’t keep a good Only Nolan down, and he turned up again in Delaware a few years later, where he supposedly once caused [5] an opposing outfielder’s error, A-Rod style, by yelling “look out for the fence!” He ended up with an uninspiring-for-the-times 2.98 ERA and a 23-54 win-loss record, with accompanying 82 ERA+, over parts of five seasons. After his playing career he went on to become, of all things, a police officer in his native Paterson, NJ, until his death in 1912 at the age of 55 - “after being ill but one day,” as his New York Times obituary [8] put it.

Even The Only Nolan’s team names were excellent: the Indianapolis Blues, the Pittsburgh Allegenys, and my favorite, the Wilmington Quicksteps [9] (who also included 1B Redleg Snyder and SS Oyster Burnes, scored 35 runs and allowed 114, and went 2-16 before disbanding). In fact, even his catcher with the Indianapolis Blues had a fantastic moniker: Silver Flint [10]. There are now multiple [11] Major League Nolans, but The Only is definitely my favorite.

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URL to article: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/2010/11/08/baseball-player-name-of-the-week-2/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://bronxbanter.arneson.name/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/theonlynolan.bmp

[2] The Only Nolan: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/n/nolanth01.shtml

[3] debate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Only_Nolan#The_Only_Nolan

[4] Francis “The Only Leon” Leon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Leon

[5] BR Bullpen: http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/The_Only_Nolan

[6] blacklisted : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Only_Nolan

[7] Lip Pike: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lip_Pike

[8] New York Times obituary: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60F17FF3F5B13738DDDA00994DD405B838DF1D3

[9] the Wilmington Quicksteps: http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WIL/1884.shtml

[10] Silver Flint: http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Silver_Flint

[11] multiple: http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl/player_search.cgi?search=Nolan

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