In today’s episode of “Baseball Shorts,” we pay attention to the term Emerald Age. Yours truly wasn’t familiar with the term until he bumped into it on a search for the item of today’s episode.
The true baseball lover may think of the Eugene Emeralds, when hearing the term Emerald Age. The Emeralds are named after the forests surrounding Eugene in the state of Oregon.
But no, the term has nothing to do with the minor league club. The term Emerald Age refers to a period in Major League baseball when the rosters of MLB clubs were dominated by (second-generation) Irish players.
This era had a time span from the late 19th century until the early 20th century. For quite a long time, Irish immigrants were regarded second grade persons in the US but somehow many still found their way into baseball. Here is a list of Irish born MLB players. During the given time span, the Irish totaled 40% of some MLB rosters.
The name Emerald Age can be explained by the nickname for Ireland: The Emerald Isle.
The term itself isn’t that old. It was introduced by Jerold Casway, who wrote “Ed Delahanty in the Emerald Age of Baseball,” a book that was published in 2004.
Of the more than 16,000 players to appear in the major league since 1876, 38 were born in Ireland, while hundreds more have been of Irish descent. A few well known players of the modern age in baseball with Irish roots are: Mark McGwire, Nolan Ryan, Derek Jeter (yes, half Irish), and Adam Dunn.
But despite the big influence of Irishmen in US baseball, the game remains relatively small in Ireland unfortunately. One US foundation, the Irish American Baseball Society is trying to help the game of baseball in Ireland but also in other countries where the game has not gained popularity yet.