Monday, November 07, 2005

November 7th, 1857

Edward Nolan Born

Edward Nolan was a pitcher in the nineteenth century for a variety of teams in a variety of leagues (including the 1884 Wilmington Quicksteps of the Union Association, which is bafflingly considered a Major League even though its standings are, in a word, laughable). Anyway, he is much better known as "The Only Nolan." The nickname presumably comes from the fact that at the time of Nolan's debut in 1878 no other Nolan was in professional baseball, and in fact, no man with Nolan has either his first or last name would play in the Majors until 1966 when the famous Nolan, Ryan, made his debut for the Mets. Since then there've been Gary Nolan and Joe Nolan and a couple of players with Nolan as their middle name. It is still a fairly unrepresented name as these things go.

However, I have also heard another theory about the origins of the nickname, one so bizarre that I would be remiss in not sharing it. It does require some back-story, however. In the period following the Civil War, a minstrel performer named Francis Leon rose to prominence performing a burlesque act while simultaneously in both blackface and drag.
Leon was wildly successful in a way that is hard to imagine now, earning huge sums for his performances and prompting a sea of imitators. In response, Leon began billing himself and his act as, you guessed it, "The Only Leon." The theory follows then that Ed Nolan somehow reminded an observer of Leon (out of costume, one can only hope) and from there a nickname was born.

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