BRONX, NEW YORK, JUNE 10- Long time former Fordham Athletic Director Frank McLaughlin was among the honorees at the inaugural Irish Sports 50 Awards presented by the Irish Voice newspaper on June 6 at the beautiful American Irish Historical Society on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
They came from California, Dallas, Ireland, and of course, “Frankie from the Bronx,” McLaughlin’s longtime calling card. Sports and business figures from all the major U.S sports were present. Tim Brosnan, Executive Vice President of Major League Baseball, was the keynote speaker, describing the Irish journey to success in sports as an example for every immigrant community.
It has been a year filled with honors for the Athletic Director Emeritus, beginning with his induction into the Fordham Athletics Hall of Fame on January 26. He will be inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame on June 22.
Mark Tuohey (Fordham Law ’73), a member of the Fordham board of trustees, and Fordham alumnus Bill Smith, were also among the honorees. McLaughlin was joined by his wife Susan, and daughters Tara, Heather, and Coleen.
Born and bred in the Bronx, McLaughlin spent 27 years as Fordham’s Athletic Director before being promoted to associate vice president of student affairs for athletic alumni relations and external affairs. During his tenure as Athletic Director, Fordham’s teams won a combined 26 conference championships while its student-athletes have maintained tremendous graduation rates. He is a long time resident of Briarcliff Manor, NY.
Back to Brosnan, who pointed out that our forefathers came with nothing and that sport was one of the first arenas in America where Irish were welcome.
At a time when “No Irish Need Apply” signs were still being hung out the Irish were making it in baseball and other sports he pointed out. McLaughlin’s sport, of course, was basketball, and he was a bona fide star at Fordham, where he captained the basketball team before becoming the assistant coach in 1970-71, helping the team to a 26-3 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Other ethnic groups would follow the same path and African Americans would eventually break the barrier too.
Sports were one of the first places that Irish were accepted he said. It was an invaluable lesson for other groups who faced discrimination too.
Now, Brosnan pointed out, sports is open to all “If you have the skill you can play it doesn't matter where you came from.”
It is true. The first thing the child of immigrants will do, whether Irish or these days Hispanic, is grab a bat or a ball and try to compete on the only truly level playing field around -- sports.
Deputy Consul of Ireland Peter Ryan talked about the healing power of sport when it came to the fallout from Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaways.
Some of Ireland’s top athletes, members of the Gaelic Players Association came on their own time to America and rebuilt the sports gymnasium at Breezy Point that had been ruined by the storm. 1,500 members of the Irish community had lent their skills all over the different Rockaway neighborhoods.
GPA Chairman Dessie Farrell talked about the extraordinary response to their gesture including coverage on NBC Nightly News and many other organizations stepping forward to help. This weekend the GPA will conduct a Gaelic sports 7 a side tournament in Breezy Point to aid local charities.
The goodwill engendered between Ireland and America on that trip alone speaks volumes for the power of sport.
The first-ever Irish American Sports 50 was put together by Irish Voice editor Debbie McGoldrick and business manager John Dillon. Judging by the success it won’t be the last!