The Only Nolan

The Only Nolan

The Only Nolan
Born: (1857-11-07)November 7, 1857
Paterson, New Jersey
Died: May 18, 1913(1913-05-18) (aged 55)
Paterson, New Jersey
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
May 1, 1878 for the Indianapolis Blues
Last MLB appearance
October 9, 1885 for the Philadelphia Quakers
Career statistics
Win–loss Record 23–52
Earned run average 2.98
Strikeouts 274

Edward Sylvester "The Only" Nolan (born November 7, 1857 in Paterson, New Jersey, Died May 18, 1913 in Paterson, New Jersey) was a Major League Baseball pitcher, outfielder, and third baseman.[1]

Although he was raised in Paterson, and the 1900 census shows his birthplace as New Jersey, both the 1870 and 1880 censuses indicate that he and his three older brothers (John, Mills and Michael) were born in Canada. His parents were James and Mary Nolan, both born in Ireland. He married Mary Coyle around 1882 and they had two children, Marguerita (born 1891) and Edward (born 1895).


A right-handed pitcher who batted left-handed, Nolan broke into baseball with the Indianapolis Blues of the National League in 1878. On May 21, Nolan set down the Milwaukee Grays with just 2 hits‚ but the Blues barely won the 6–5 game because of 11 errors and passed balls.[2] He was expelled by the team on August 14 when he told the team he was going to a funeral, but instead went drinking. During the league meetings in December, Nolan's appeal for reinstatement was denied.[2]

In 1881 Nolan was allowed to return to the league, this time with the Cleveland Blues. On July 23, Nolan not only pitched Cleveland to a 7–3 win over the Buffalo Bisons, but went 4-for-4 at the plate.[3] Nolan and teammates John Clapp and Jim McCormick missed the team's September 20 game in Worcester because their return from a side trip to New York City was delayed by a train wreck. They were each fined $100 each.[3]

At a National League meeting in Saratoga Springs, New York later that month, the league adopted a blacklist of players who were barred from playing for or against any NL teams until they were removed by unanimous vote of the league clubs. Nolan was one of the ten blacklisted for "confirmed dissipation and general insubordination". The other nine were Sadie HouckLip PikeButtercup DickersonMike DorganBill CrowleyJohn FoxLew BrownEmil Gross‚ and Ed Caskin.[4]

He pitched in 7 games, all losses, for the Pittsburg Alleghenys in 1883 before being released for disciplinary reasons. He played two more professional seasons for the Wilmington Quicksteps and the Philadelphia Quakers before retiring.[1]

Bill James and Rob Neyer report Nolan has having thrown an unusually fast (for his day) underhand fastball and a combination of curveballs.[5]

The Only Nolan

A range of possible origins of the nickname "The Only" have been claimed over the years, one states that the reason for the name derives from the fact that no other Nolans, either first or last name had played or was playing in the majors at that time, therefore he was the only Nolan. The other is slightly more elaborate. In the period following the Civil War, a wildly successful minstrel performer of the day, named Francis Leon, rose to prominence performing a burlesque act while simultaneously in both blackface and drag. His popularity prompted many imitators. In response, Leon began billing himself and his act as, "The Only Leon." The theory follows then that Ed Nolan somehow reminded an observer of Leon, thus sparking the similar nickname.[6]


After his baseball career was over, Nolan worked for the Paterson, New Jersey Police Department. He had worked there about 15 years, he suddenly became ill and died of nephritis[7] at the age of 55.[8] He was interred at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey.[1]


External links

  • Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference (Minors)