As most of you know, I have been writing a book on early (1887-1917) Notre Dame football. Back in those days, America was aggressively seeking and attracting immigrants, so it should not be surprising that a lot of ND’s football players from my research period were first or second generation Americans.
Tracking down ancestors of these 370 players has been quite difficult (thank goodness for the Mormons and Angela Kindig of Notre Dame Archives). I feel 95% confident in the summary I have so far. At least 15 of these players were themselves born in foreign countries. An additional seventy eight of our players had fathers who were immigrants to America. An additional fifty six of our players had mothers who were immigrants to America.
What were the countries of origin of our 15 first-generation Americans? Six from Ireland; five Canadians; two from Mexico; one from England; and one from Austria.
How about the country of origin of the 78 dads, whose sons were born here? Thirty six from Ireland. Nineteen from Germany. Nine from Canada. Two from England, Scotland, and Prussia. One each from Alsace Lorain; Austria; Bavaria; Belgium; Denmark; Italy; Luxembourg; and Poland. The moms came from Ireland (27); Germany (15); and Canada (7). The rest came from Austria; Belgium; Bohemia; England; Italy; Poland; and Sweden. There is also one player whose parents were likely foreign born, but the ancestry records on his census reports were inconsistent.
Several of the foreign-born dads of these players came from countries which either do not exist today or from cities which are now in different countries today.
Two interesting men, both named Shaughnessy, fought for Canada in World War I, even though both were American born, of American parents.
Notre Dame Football was “America’s team” in the early days. There are many reasons for why this happened. In those pre-TV, and pre-social media days, families would gather around a radio on Saturday afternoons to hear Notre Dame football. The majority of the U.S. lived in the East and Notre Dame played a lot of football games in major eastern cities. We were a country of immigrants and Notre Dame’s football teams included many players with ethic names. Notre Dame also educated a lot of nuns and priests who became great cheerleaders for ND Football.
Oops----In my prior post on early Notre Dame Football Players with Oregon connections, I omitted three good ones:
Cook, William John
b. 9/23/1889, Naples, SD; d. 2/19/1952 (62), Los Angeles, CA. 5’10, 185.
At ND 1912-1914. His father was born in Canada. Bill was the eldest of seven children, the first six of which were boys. Transfer from Columbia University (University of Portland), where he played football. He was one of four transfers (Kelleher, Finegan, and Fitzgerald were the others) from ND’s sister school on the 1913 ND team. Worked for Arizona Mining and Smelting, Company, in Chloride, AZ, from where he sent Fr. Wenninger, a “nest of an Arizona Oriole”, an indigenous cactus bird. In mining & smelting business, also in Butte, MT and Juneau, AK. Worked for the Anaconda Mining Company. In the May, 1932 Universal Notre Dame Night banquet of the Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles, Cook was one of the speakers who told stories about Knute Rockne. Others were Hoot King, Tom Lieb, and Christy Walsh. Hoot was a Rockne teammate; Lieb was a Rockne Coach; and Walsh was a famous sportswriter/agent. In a 1939 note to his Class Secretary, in the ALUMNUS, Bill reported: “He told me he had been back to Notre Dame for the opening of the Rockne Memorial. He reports a lot of changes conducive to peace and cleanliness but not to the rugged individualism which was formerly experienced in the rat-infested subways of Corby and Sorin”. As of the 1920 Census (Chloride, AZ), married to Violet, born in Oregon. As of the 1930 Census (Los Angeles), married to Ruby, born in Washington. Married, Laverne, born in Minnesota, on July 31, 1943, in a Saugus, California civil ceremony, with notorious Los Angeles politician William Bonelli as his witness. A February, 1944 item in the ALUMNUS contained this gem: “William J. Cook, of the class of 1913, and incidentally, the man who introduced Bonnie Rockne to Rock at Cedar Point the summer that Dorais and Rock decided to make the forward pass workable, recently married.” President, Hillview Oil Company.
Finegan, Charles Thomas “Sam”
b. 1/25/1893, Boise, ID; d. 5/4/1953 (60), Boise, ID. 5’11, 175.
At ND, 1911-1915, LLB. Previously played two years at Columbia University (University of Portland). Only member of the ND team that defeated Army, in 1913, who did not play the entire game. He broke a shoelace and sat out a play. A fine “back guard” on the ND Varsity Basketball Team. WWI. Coached Boise High School Football Team. Sheep raiser.
Kelleher, William Andrew
b. 12/13/1889, Macroom, IRELAND; d. 11/27/1961 (71), Lorain, OH. 5’8, 170.
At ND, 1911-1915, Mechanical Engineering Degree. Described by a note in the ALUMNUS as “Those who remember him know that he never side-stepped, and his style of play was a typical example of that ‘Fightin' Irish’ spirit that we know will always mark the teams of the old school”. Transfer from Columbia University (University of Portland). Coached Kenyon College, while playing for the Massillon Tiger Cats in the NFL (using the alias “Finnegan”). Bill’s son, John C. Kelleher, M.D., was elected to the “Sports Illustrated” magazine Silver Jubilee All American Team. John won two ND games with field goals. John was the first son of an ND Football Player to also earn a monogram as an ND Football Player. John became a prominent Toledo plastic surgeon, with a specialty in thumb and ear reconstruction.