Keh: Matthew Dellavedova isn’t first Aussie athlete to charm Cleveland

From Andrew Keh at the New York Times on June 10, 2015, with SABR member Rochelle Llewelyn Nicholls:

The surprising emergence of Matthew Dellavedova, the Cavaliers’ unsung point guard from Maryborough, Australia, has charmed this city during the N.B.A. playoffs. As unlikely as it may seem, Cleveland has embraced an Aussie underdog athlete before — just look back 116 years to find him.

In 1899, Joe Quinn, a 34-year-old second baseman from Ipswich, Queensland, Australia, was appointed the player-manager of the Cleveland Spiders of the National League. The team finished the season 20-134, the worst record in the history of the game, and it was disbanded before the following year. Quinn, who died in St. Louis in 1940, has been largely forgotten in the United States and was hardly known in Australia, his career a humorous factoid amid baseball’s long, colorful history.

But according to Rochelle Llewelyn Nicholls, the author of “Joe Quinn: Among the Rowdies,” Quinn probably deserves more commemoration. During his time in the United States, he was a popular player among fans, standing out amid his rough peers for his humble nature. Quinn — one of Australia’s first sports heroes — was a pioneer who in many ways personified the values of his home country.

“There’s a thing in Australia we call ‘having a go,’ and it’s considered a great characteristic in Australia,” Nicholls said Monday in a telephone interview from her home in Gundagai, Australia. “Even though the odds are stacked against you, you give it a try anyway. You might not win. But in Australia, we don’t necessarily care if you win or not. It’s how you approach a great challenge.”


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Originally published: June 10, 2015. Last Updated: June 10, 2015.