31 Aug

The Day That I Played Baseball

Oh, me name it is O’Houlihan, I’m a man that influential,
I mind my business stay at home me wants are few and small;
But the other day a gang did come, they were filled with whiskey, gin and rum.
And they took me out in the broiling sun to play a game of ball.

They made me carry all the bats, I thought they’d set me crazy,
They put me out in the center field, sure I paralyzed them all;
When I put up me hands to stop a fly, holy murther, it struck me in the eye,
And they laid me out by the fence to die on the day that I played baseball.

There was O’Shaughnessy of the second nine, he was throwing them underhanded,
He put a twirl upon them and I couldn’t strike them at all;
The umpire he called strikes on me; “What’s that?” says I, “You’re out,” says he,
Bad luck to you O’Shaughnessy, and the way that you twirled the ball.

Then I went to bat and I knocked the ball I thought to San Francisco,
Around the bases three times three, by Heavens, I run them all,
When the gang set up a terrible howl, saying, “O’Houlihan, you struck a foul,
And they rubbed me down with a Turkish towel on the day that I played baseball.

The catcher swore by the Jack of Trumps that he saw me stealing bases,
And fired me into a keg of beer, I loud for help did call;
I got roaring, staving, stone-blind drunk, I fell in the gutter, I lost my spunk,
I had a head on me like an elephant’s trunk on the day that I played baseball.

The reporters begged to know my name and presented me with a medal,
They asked me for my photograph to hang upon the wall;
Saying, “O’Houlihan you won the game,” though me head was sore and shoulder lame,
And they sent me home on a cattle train all the day that I played baseball.


A seasonal selection from the repertoire of Mike Dean: Irish American lumberjack/saloon-keeper who lived in Minnesota from 1885-1931. Dean’s self-published songster The Flying Cloud contains many songs from the Irish-American music hall stage and this one falls squarely in that genre.

This song was written by Patrick James Rooney (1844-1892) in 1878. Rooney was a “clog dancer” who, along with his son, Pat Rooney Jr., had one of the most famous vaudeville song-and-dance men of his day. William H. A. Williams, in his book ’Twas Only an Irishman’s Dream writes: “In spite of moments of burlesque when he would sing ‘Biddy the Ballet Girl’ and  then clog around on his toes dressed in a tutu, Rooney was apparently a graceful dancer.” Irish performers like the Rooneys dominated American popular music in the late 1800s. “The Day I Played Baseball” was one of Pat Sr.’s few successful compositions. It was eventually overshadowed in 1908 by another baseball song in which “Katie Casey” begs her man: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

In my search for information on Mike Dean’s life in Hinckley, Minnesota (1885-1908) I have found that baseball was wildly popular in Hinckley in the 1890s. Local papers in 1889 proclaimed a “baseball craze” in Hinckley and summer papers thereafter were filled with accounts of the exploits of the Hinckley Monarchs.

Interestingly, the sheet music I found for Rooney’s version of his own song (from which I took the above melody) only had four verses where Dean’s has six.  Perhaps Dean composed the verses (missing in the sheet music) about the ball-twirling O’Shaughnessy and the catcher’s intoxicating “punishment.” Maybe the added verses were even based on experience?

More on this song online:

Original sheet music for “The Day I Played Baseball” courtesy of the Library of Congress



12 Aug

The Roving Irishman

I am a roving Irishman that roves from town to town,
I lately took a notion to view some foreign ground,
So with my knapsack on my shoulder and shillala in my hand,
I sailed away to America to view that happy land.

When I landed in Philadelphia the girls all laughed with joy,
Says one unto another, “There comes a roving boy.”
One treated to a bottle and another to a dram,
And the toast went ’round so merrily, “Success to the Irishman.”

The very first night at the house where I was going to stay,
The landlady’s daughter grew very fond of me;
She kissed me and she hugged me and she took me by the hand,
And she whispers to her mother, “How I love this Irishman.”

It was early next morning when I was going away,
The landlady’s daughter those words to me did say,
“How can you be so cruel or prove so very unkind,
As to go away a-roving and leave me here behind?”

Oh, I am bound for Wisconsin, that’s right among the Dutch,
And as for conversation it won’t be very much,
But by signs and by signals I’ll make them understand
That the spirits of good nature lies in this Irishman.

Now it’s time to leave off roving and take myself a wife,
And for to live happy the remainder of my life;
Oh, I’ll hug her and I’ll kiss her, oh, I’ll do the best I can
For to make her bless the day that she wed with this Irishman.


I sang this song for singer Len Graham of County Antrim, Ireland and he immediately recognized it as a version of “The Roving Journeyman” aka “The Little Beggerman.” I learned another version when I was a teenager up in Bemidji, MN but I didn’t realize they were related because I had a different melody (the one often called “The Red Haired Boy”) for my earlier version. Dean’s air is much more somber.

Later, I came across a version, called “The Rambling Kerry Lad,” recorded from Bridget Granbhil of the Dingle Peninsula that is very similar in melody and text to Dean’s version. You can hear Granbhil’s version on the Folkways album Traditional Music of Ireland, Vol. 2: Songs and Dances from Down, Kerry, and Clare. The song was a vehicle for the “traditional creativity” of other “woods singers” in Dean’s childhood home of St. Lawrence County, New York.  Two personalized versions, “The Roving Cunningham” and “The Roving Ashlaw Man” were recorded there by Robert Bethke in the 1970s from brothers Ted and Eddie Ashlaw.

We don’t know where Dean learned the song but his version bears the mark of more personalization – this time to the Midwest. The 5th verse is unique to Dean’s collection with its reference to the somewhat non-conversational Dutch of Wisconsin (“Dutch” here almost certainly means German, or Deutsch, rather than the modern usage of the word for folks from the Netherlands). This verse could easily have been composed by Dean himself.  In fact, my research has turned up a story of Dean reluctantly leaving Hinckley, Minnesota in 1889 for a brief stint as a bartender in a saloon in Superior, Wisconsin. He didn’t last long there and the Pine County Pioneer even reported that “Mike does not fancy the town.” Maybe this had to do with a German deficiency in the “gift of the gab” (or maybe it was just a crummy job). Also, since Dean was, by all accounts, a sociable bartender for most of his adult life, it’s easy to guess what is meant by “the spirits of good nature!”


More detailed information on this song from the Traditional Ballad Index

Listen to other versions online!

Bridget Granbhil’s “The Rambling Kerry Lad”
Ted Ashlaw’s “The Roving Cunningham”
Eddie Ashlaw’s “The Roving Ashlaw Man”