Pattsy Donovan

October 19, 2008

Originally written for the Lawrence History Center’s Newsletter in 2003
By Brian Sheehy

Much more will be written on Patsy Donovan


Patsy Donovan: Lawrence MA Unknown Baseball Star

Did you know that there is a Lawrencian out there who is on the ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Well, there is and his name is Patrick “Patsy” Donovan. Donovan was born on March 16, 1865 in County Cork Ireland, and when he was three years old he left his homeland to settle in Lawrence, MA. Donovan started his playing career with the minor league club of Lawrence in 1886, one year following the Lawrence Club victory of the New England League Championship. He continued with the local club in 1887, but when the Lawrence club disbanded midway through the season he joined on with the Salem, MA club of the New England League. That year he had an extraordinary year hitting .398. In 1888 he moved to the International League to play for the London Club of Ontario Canada and went on to lead the league with a .359 batting average. Donovan stayed with the London Club through 1889.

Donovan finally received the call from the big leagues in 1890, a year in which there occurred a massive players strike and the formation of the Players League. It was also in this year that he was signed by the Boston Beaneaters of the National League. Unfortunately his stay in Boston was short, and he was sold to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms after only thirty two games in Boston. In that same year Brooklyn found themselves in postseason play, and Donovan shined in five games compiling eight hits, five runs, and a series batting average of .471. In 1891, he again changed teams and leagues when he joined the Louisville Colonels of the American Association, but due to the collapse of the Louisville franchise he was forced to finish the season with the Washington Statesmen. With the disbanding of the American Association in 1892 the Washington franchise was forced to merge and become part of the National League. Donovan again split the season among teams playing half the season with Washington and half with the Pittsburg Club. Donovan remained with the Pittsburg club until 1899 when he left to go play for St. Louis. A highly intelligent and baseball minded man, Donovan served as a player manager in Pittsburg in 1897 and 1899 and St. Louis from 1901-1903. Donovan is among a select few in baseball history to serve as both player and manager.

Donovan’s coaching career continued after his playing days were done, coaching Washington in 1904. He then moved on in 1906 to coach Brooklyn through 1908. In 1910 he moved to the Red Sox and coached them for two seasons. When the club was sold in the winter of 1911 Donovan was replaced as the manager and the Sox went on to win the pennant and the world series in 1912.
Donovan then went on to coach in the minor league, coaching Buffalo to two pennants in 1915 and 1916. He left the club in 1918 when Buffalo could not pay his salary. He then served as a scout for the Yankees covering baseball in New England. Donovan stayed in the area coaching at Phillips Academy. Little did he know that he was coaching a future President of the United States. George Bush Senior played for Donovan at Andover, and when there was a push to have Donovan nominated to the Hall of Fame, Bush sent a letter to the Hall supporting the nomination.

Donovan had a stellar career as a player that spanned 17 seasons. He appeared in 1,821 games compiling 2,253 hits and scoring 1,1318 runs, which ranks him among the top 100 of all time. Not much of a power hitter, Donovan was more of a place hitter and ended his career with a .301 lifetime batting average. Know as a speedster on the bases he stole 518 bases, which ranks him in the top 30 of all time. He led the league in steals in 1900 with 45 and throughout his career he was among the league leaders. Donovan was a tremendous player and the pride of Lawrence baseball. He truly deserves to be enshrined among the immortal baseball greats of Cooperstown.

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One Response to “Pattsy Donovan”

  1. Bill Knowles Says:

    How sad that after all these years Patrick Donovan’s outstanding accomplishments have not been honored by an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.


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