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Pat McDonald (McDonnell)

Date of Birth: 
29 July 1878
Date of Death: 
16 May 1954

Patrick Joseph “Babe” McDonald
Born: July 29, 1878
– Doonbeg, Co. Clare, Ireland
Died:  May 16, 1954
– New York City
New York City Police Department 1905-1946
Captain, Traffic Division – “The Times Square Cop”

Pat McDonald was born in Doonbeg, County Clare, Ireland. He competed as an American track and field athlete in a variety of the throwing events. He was a member of the Irish American Athletic Club and of the New York Police Department working as a traffic cop in Times Square for many years. He was part of a group of Irish-American athletes known as the "Irish Whales". 

 

He competed for the United States in the 1912 Summer Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden in the shot put where he won the gold medal. He also took part in the shot put (both hands) competition where the distance thrown with each hand was added together. This was the only time this event was held in the Olympic program, and McDonald finished second behind teammate Ralph Rose who had finished second to him in the shot competition.
McDonald returned 8 years later after World War I to compete in the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belguim. Here he won the Gold medal in the 56 lb weight throw in the second and final time this competition was held in the Olympic program. 
There is a Memorial to Pat McDonald at White Strand, Doonbeg, County Clare. 
On entering New York via  Ellis Island, an error in recording  resulted in Pat McDonnell becoming Pat McDonald.
It was said of Pat (known to friends and foes as “Babe”) that his Falstaffian figure, Irish brogue and friendly banter were as familiar to New Yorkers as the best hotels, restaurants and landmarks of the era. George M. Cohan, noticing one afternoon that Officer McDonald was not on duty at Broadway and 43rd Street, made a point of going up to him the next day to ask about his health.
 
McDonald, who left Ireland in 1899 and six years later had a NYPD badge pinned on an extra-large uniform, started his career with a rookie’s $66.59 monthly salary and held down the Times Square beat for fifteen years. In early 1921 he became a plainclothes sergeant, was promoted to lieutenant in 1926, and ten years later became a captain.
 
THE New York Police Museum has a whole section dedicated to the "Whales". These were men who dominated the throwing events in the infant years of Baron de Coubertin's movement. They were all Irish and nearly all policemen.
Pat proved himself to be one of the great "Whales'' an honorary member of an exclusive club. The club started in 1900 by Limerick man John Flanagan. Nicknamed the Irish Whales, they  dominated track and field events, particularly throwing events, for the United States, for the first two decades of the 20th century.  Between 1896 and 1924, the whales won everything from the Amateur Athletic Union national championships right up to the Olympic Games.  They were primarily members of the Irish American Athletic Club, the New York Athletic Club.  They were known as the Whales because of their athletic ability, huge size and voracious appetites.
Arthur Daly in the New York Times,wrote of how they got their nicknames on the train trip to the Olympics of 1912.  He wrote.  Those big fellows all sat at the same table and their waiter was a small chap.  Before we reached Stockholm he had lost twenty pounds, worn down by bringing them food. Once as he passed me he muttered under his breath, ‘It’s whales they are, not men.’  They used to take five plates of soup as a starter and then gulp down three or four steaks with trimmings. That Simon Gillis would think nothing of having a dozen eggs for breakfast.  And, they were also the life of any party.
Another tale of their voracious appetites came from Daly twenty-two years later. In a Timescolumn he wrote: Some of their more prodigious feats were at the table. The Irish American A.C. was competing in Baltimore when Gilles placed an order for a post-meet snack with the head waiter at a local restaurant. He ordered 27 dozen oysters and six huge T-bone steaks.  The waiter was ready when Gilles, McDonald and McGrath arrived. The table had been set for a party of 6. ‘Do you want to wait for the rest of your group?’ asked the headwaiter.  He turned pale as he watched three whales devour 27 oysters and six huge T-bone steaks.  
He was a hero at home and abroad. Celebrated New York Times columnist Arthur Daly, once wrote of his popularity. "There could be only one backdrop for a man of Pat's proportions and humour - Times Square - and he got it. From 1905 to 1920 he was on traffic duty in the Square. His figure and County Clare brogue became as familiar as the Knickerbocker Hotel, Shanley's, the Victoria Theatre and Dowlings.
'He was a favorite of dandies, stage folk and newsboys. In 1912, just before he left for his first Olympics in Stockholm, newsboys stopped him at Broadway and 43rd Street and gave a silver cup to him'. 
 The 6’4” Irish-American Athletic Club stalwart, who competed at over 260 pounds throughout most of his career, won an amazing sixteen national championships throwing the 56-lbs weight – the first in 1907 and last in 1933, at the age of 55. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 1912 for the shot put and another in 1920 for the 56-lbs weight throw.
 
In addition to several commendations for heroism and valor as a member of the NYPD, Pat was given the honor of being the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies of both the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games. Coupled with distance runner George Bonhag – who carried the American flag in the Opening Ceremony at the1912 Games – members of the I-AAC were United States flag bearers at three Olympics.
 
When the 75-year-old retired police captain and Olympic champion died in 1954, New York Times columnist Arthur Daley remembered how McDonald had gone through life, “with a song in his heart, a twinkle in his eye and laughter ever bubbling within him.”
 
Pat “Babe” McDonald was buried at the Gate of Heaven cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.  

 

 

Location in USA: 
Hawthorne, New York.