Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Five Fun Facts About the Irish in Cleveland

Without a doubt, Cleveland has a rich Irish heritage. Here are a few little historical tidbits that you can use to impress your friends (and the lasses) while you're on your St. Patrick's Day bender tomorrow:
  • Without F.J. "Steve" O'Neill, Cleveland might not have a Major League Baseball team today. When the Indians were facing bankruptcy in 1978, O'Neill -- who had made his fortune in the transportation business -- and his partners put up $11 million to save the team. (Source: The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia)
  • If Ed Feighan had won the 1977 mayoral race in the city of Cleveland, we might not have the Cleveland International Film Festival. Festival founder Jonathan Forman had worked for Feighan during his campaign and was expected to continue as his press secretary if Feighan won. (Source: "Jon Forman's baby turns 25," PD, 3/9/2001. Accessible via the Plain Dealer database with a CLEVNET library card)
  • Speaking of culture, the world might never have known Tom Hanks if it wasn't for Great Lakes Theatre Festival director Vincent Dowling, a veteran of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin (Ireland, not Ohio). (Source: Encyclopedia of Cleveland History)
  • You may do some drinking at the Old Angle tomorrow, but do you know where that name comes from? It comes from the Angle, an Irish neighborhood that developed on the West Side during the 1860s. The Angle was bordered by Detroit Avenue to the south and West 28th Street to the west, and followed Washington Avenue down to Whiskey Island. (Source: Encyclopedia of Cleveland History).
  • Boxer Johnny Kilbane, who was born in the Angle, became the World Featherweight Champion on February 22, 1912. He returned to Cleveland on St. Patrick's Day, and was welcomed by a crowd of 200,000 people -- the largest public gathering in the history of Cleveland (at the time). (Source: Johnny Kilbane Official Website).


  1. My Irish grandparents met at the parade for Johnny Kilbane on St. Patrick's Day in 1912. Both had emigrated the previous year,and stood next to each other at the parade!

  2. That's a really awesome story - just the kind of thing that connects the present to the past. I bet they loved telling that story, too. Thanks for sharing! Did they get to see Johnny or were there just too many people?