Foley’s NY &the Pope’s Autograph

by John Delach

Foley’s NY, a Midtown pub located on the south side of East Thirty-Third Street opposite the Empire State Building courageously identifies itself as: “An Irish Pub with a Baseball Attitude.” This sports stronghold forcefully projects this message without apology or hesitation shouting it out from the saloon’s fire engine red façade, the curious bicycle mounted above it, the flags of US and the Republic of Ireland, baseball bats  substituting for door handles and a sign proclaiming: “The Bar that Banned DANNY BOY.”


All of these features reflect the attitude of its proprietor, Shaun Clancy, to set Foley’s apart from the other eateries occupying the same territory. Shaun, a bear of a man and a born saloon keeper; quick with the wit, quick with the challenge, quick with the charm and the humor. He embodies all that make the Irish special.


When Shaun set out to establish his own saloon, his goal was to combine his two greatest loves, the hospitality industry and baseball. “I wanted an Irish name that had a baseball connection. I thought about different names before I finally realized that Red Foley, (the sports writer for the New York Daily News for 34 years,) was right under my nose. I had known Red for a few years and when I proposed naming it in his honor, he replied, ‘Why me, I don’t even drink?”


Shaun replied, “All the better, now I can feed you whenever you like but I don’t have to worry about your bar bill.” Red agreed and Foley’s NY was born in 2004.


I discovered Foley’s as I was working my way toward Penn Station one afternoon returning from a Mid-town lunch. The red façade stopped me cold, the bats beckoned, I stepped inside, ordered a Guinness and the rest was history.


In the years since that day, my friend, Mike Scott and I have made it our exclusive Manhattan watering hole establishing a rapport with Shaun, his dad: Papa John, his son, Ryan, and daughter, Emma, and the bevy of mostly Irish waitresses who charm the patrons with their wit, personality and smiles.


Foley’s is a museum of sports memorabilia, both ordinary and rare ranging from bobble head figurines to uniforms with everything in between. The signature items though are Shaun’s collection of autographed baseballs numbering in the thousands. Most of the signatures concern baseball, being players, managers and coaches, scouts, front office people, writers and broadcasters. Shaun’s collection also includes famous people from other sports, actors, politicians, business and clerical VIPs. Included in the latter are baseballs tagged by Cardinals Edward Egan and Timothy Dolan.


So it wasn’t surprising that Shaun issued a challenge to all who knew him that if some one could score Pope Francis’ signature on a baseball during his visit to New York in September, Shaun would donate 1,000 meals to St. Francis Church’s out reach program. (St. Francis is a local Manhattan church two blocks from Foley’s.)


I chose to take a low path and a high path. My low path became a prank. I bought a new baseball on which I wrote:  “To Mister Clancyman: Vaya con Dios.” I signed it, “Pappa Frankie 1.”


I presented this to Shaun who accepted it without becoming overly upset.


My high road was to take a shot at seeing if the real thing could be obtained despite insane odds against it. My secret weapon was a VIP from the World Trade Center whom I know from a football tailgate group. I knew absolutely that he would see the pope when Francis traveled to the WTC Museum for an inter-faith gathering and there was a chance that this chap might meet Francis and perhaps have a private chat with him during the visit. He readily accepted this challenge calculating how to create a scenario to pull this off.


Alas, this was not to be. Every photo taken of Francis at that visit shows him being closely escorted by former mayor, Mike Bloomberg, Cardinal Dolan and his own omni-present security detail.


As my buddy reported back after the visit, “It was literally impossible to get his autograph.”


And so it went. Shaun had four or five other sources who also tried unsuccessfully to obtain Pope Francis’ moniker. Security was just too tight, extreme and with no sense of humor or of the absurd. At least we tried. Shaun, however, chose to fulfill his promise to St. Francis despite this collective inability to succeed.


God bless you, Shaun Clancy, in addition to being a great saloon proprietor, you are, my friend, a stand-up citizen.