John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: October, 2020

Foley’s NY: Part Two

Paradise Found

In the beginning, Michael Scott and I befriended Ailis who introduced us to Deidre and Kathy, the two waitresses who ran the floor at Foley’s. Fortunately, between being on our best behavior and with Ailis’ vote of confidence, they decided that Mike and I were legit and chose to adopt us. Both gals acted with authority and control, not uncommon in an Irish pub; but their attitudes were blended with humor, kindness. flirtation and helpful caution.

Being with them was a pleasure. Deidre came from the old sod and charmed us with her Irish ways. Kathy, like the two of us, was a New Yorker, born and bred. Kathy belonged to an extensive family who resided in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Her family persevered through the hard times when serious crime encroached into their neighborhood before the Giuliani / Bloomberg renaissance. Remarkably, Kathy lived on Carroll Street, the same street where my daughter and her family lived and even stranger, had friends who lived in their building at 656 Carroll Street.

Kathy and Deidre were influential in connecting us with Shaun Clancy and his father, John, known as Papa John.

Saloon politics have their own curious rules and parameters. As newbies, we kept our heads down while we figured out the pitfalls so as to avoid accidentally upsetting the bar’s stability. Kathy and Deidre gave us the map we needed to act wisely and move with caution. .

Kathy was the best / worst. A Brooklyn girl, with a firecracker temper and the mouth of a sailor on leave. An innocent comment could set her off. Luckily, Kathy trusted us, and she usually came to us when she felt wounded by a comment. For example, she came to our table pissed-off that Papa John had told her he had served in the British Navy.

Out of respect and knowing that members of her family had a proud history of serving in our armed forces including a niece then serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq, I gently explained to her that what we call the merchant marine, the Brits call their merchant navy. In Papa John’s eyes, he served in a branch of their navy, the one that flew the white ensign. Warships flew the red ensign, but it was two branches, one navy.  It took several reinforcements, but I did convince her that Papa John wasn’t cheating.

Deidre was the gentler of the two, a peacemaker who maintained Foley’s equilibrium.

Michael, being an astute baseball fan didn’t hurt either. Since Michael was a long-

suffering Red Sox fan, while Shaun was a devotee of the New York Yankees, their bar room rivalry became an important bonding experience. Lordy, could they go at it, but those debates were lined with respect as they both knew what they were talking about.  I remained on the sideline, enjoyed my Guinness while observing them go at it. Frankly, their debates didn’t last long as, invariability, Shaun would get an important call, or someone would arrive who needed his attention.

Interruptions like those were never a problem for us. We’d either return to our own gossip or the gals would return to chat. As time went on, Papa John, and his buddy, Tom Cahill, would migrate to our table to share their wisdom with us.

Afternoons would melt away until we came close to missing our regular home bound trains. We learned from poor experiences not to linger too long and miss these trains.

It didn’t take long before we both came to the realization that we had found our home for lunch in the city. Foley’s was our exclusive destination for lunch.*   

We decided to keep it our place and refrain from inviting other friends and associates from joining us there. Over time, exceptions were made.

My son was the first. He worked in mid-Manhattan and Mike adored my Michael. On one of his first visits, Michael encountered Shaun, who took pride in being the biggest guy in the room. Michael overwhelmed Shaun in that category. Fortunately, my son is a peacemaker who can relax any animosity, He won over Shaun in a New York Minute.

Shortly, after my son’s first visit, I learned that Shaun was one year younger than my son.

Weird, but in the scheme of things, it worked.

Foley’s was the place, “Where everybody knew our name.”

(*The one exception I can recall was the day our path from Penn Station to the saloon was blocked by manned police barricades at the corner of Sixth Ave. and Thirty-Third St. The investigation of a shooting outside the Empire State Building turned out to be the reason. I believe we had lunch that day at Annie Moore’s, another lost pub nearby to Grand Central Terminal.)

(To be continued.)        

Chairman of the Board

I am interrupting my series about Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant out of respect for Edward Charles (Whitey) Ford who died Thursday night, October 8th at 91 years of age. Understandably, his passing has received wide coverage in the press especially in the New York area where he holds just about every team pitching record from his outstanding career with the New York Yankees. Yankees catcher, Elston Howard tagged Whitey Ford with the nickname, Chairman of the Board, to recognize how he controlled and managed each game he pitched. He engineered each of his pitches to take advantage of the batter facing him. Whitey was a natural nickname given his light blond hair.   

My purpose is to remember Whitey Ford with two humorous stories that demonstrate his long-term relationship with his teammate, room-mate and best friend, Mickey Mantle. Both stories are well-known and have spurred several versions. Please bear with me if you heard them differently.

In 1961, Ford and Mantle were selected to the All-Star Game held that year in newly opened Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Peter Stoneham, son of Horace, the Giants owner invited the boys to a round of golf at dad’s trendy country club. Ford and Mantle were not prepared for the club’s dress code. “Peter told them to simply sign for anything they might need. The fun-loving Yankees stars took that literally signing for golf shoes, sweaters, balls and shirts running up a $200 tab  extremely large for that era.” ( $1,740 in today’s money.)

“Ford saw Horace Stoneham later that night and offered to pay the bill, but the Giants owner made a deal instead. If Ford could retire star centerfielder, Willie Mays during the All-Star Game, the debt would be canceled. If Mays got a hit, the total would be doubled.”

Mantle wanted no part of such an arrangement, but Ford talked him into it. Ford only acknowledged after he retired that he sometimes doctored baseballs using saliva, and dirt or a combination of baby oil, turpentine and resin to make his fingers sticky. He also wore a ring with a rasp to cut the surface of the baseballs that affected their flight.

Ford started the All-Star game. Mays came up to bat with two outs. After getting  two strikes on Mays, Ford recalled: “Now the moneys on the line because I might not get to throw to him again. So, I did the only smart thing possible under the circumstances, I loaded the ball up real good…and then I threw Willie the biggest spitball you ever saw.”

Mays stood there transfixed, bat on his shoulder as the umpire called, “Strike Three.” Ford played it cool, but Mantle was so happy that they had won the bet that he ran home from center field hopping and clapping as if they’d just won the game.

The second story happened in January of 1974. I was researching my book about the Giants when I came across a newspaper column about another event that occurred that day. The Hall of Fame had just announced that both Ford and Mantle had both been inducted as part of the Class of 1974. A news conference was hastily put together in the Royal Box, a nightclub in the Americana Hotel to honor the two stars in a light-hearted manner.

“Another legend, the saloon keeper emeritus, Toots Shor, held court: ‘Put a glass in their hands,’ Shor shouted, ‘they don’t look natural”

“Somebody did even though it was only 11 am. Bloody Mary’s were procured.”

Among the subjects raised,  the press wanted to know how the two players  overcame their different backgrounds to become such good friends. Ford was a Queens kid from the streets while Mantle was a country boy from Oklahoma.  A reporter put the question to Mantle this way: “What  was the chemistry of your friendship with Whitey?”

“We both liked Scotch.”

RIP Whitey Ford

Foley’s NY: Part One

The Announcement

Late in the morning of May 28, 2020, I was sitting at the kitchen table working on a new piece for my weekly blog when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the phone number from Caller ID, so I answered carefully with deliberate annoyance in my voice.

“That’s a hell of a way to answer your phone.” The caller defiantly replied passing judgement on my phone etiquette. His words were laced with a distinctive Irish brogue, so I asked: “Shaun, is that you?”

“No, it’s the king of bloody England! Of course, it’s me.”

“Sorry, Shaun, I didn’t recognize your mobile phone number, What’s up?” Immediately, fearing the worst, I waited for his answer. It came swiftly: “I am closing Foley’s. I don’t have a choice. It’s bleeding money and there is no relief in sight. Either I close or lose everything. I kept the staff on as long as I could but there isn’t any chance for re-opening any time in the foreseeable future. I wanted you to know before I made my announcement later today. Please make sure you tell Mr. Scott and give him my apologies for not telling him directly.”

That was the message. I thanked him for reaching out to me. I asked about his dad, Papa John, who caught a bad case of the flu in January. Shaun had sent him back to Cavan, Ireland and the Clancy clan to recuperate. “He’s fine. He recovered nicely and he’s up and about.”

Before we signed off, Shaun practiced his new mantra that he would refine and repeat to the media, friends, associates and all those he knew in the baseball and sports community: “This is not the end of Foley’s. It’s the end of our existence on West Thirty-Third Street. I am looking forward to Foley’s 2.0. Where I don’t know, perhaps Vegas, or Tampa, or perhaps another format. Time will tell.”

That was a sad day in my life and the end of an era for Mike Scott and me.

Discovery

That era began in 2009. I was working on my third book about the lean years I suffered through with my beloved Football Giants from 1964 to 1980. I decided to use newspaper accounts as my primary source, so I utilized the main branch of the New York Public Library’s microfilmed copies of all Metropolitan newspapers, living and dead. This graveyard of newspaper past and present and their brilliant scribes provided me with the insight I sought into the that period.

This was a tedious process and I settled on researching and copying two different seasons per visit to the library. Normally, after completing my task, I’d catch a bus just outside the main exit on Fifth Avenue for the trip south to Penn Station.

One session in the spring of 2009 changed my routine forever. When I exited the library on what was one of the ten best days of the year for weather in NYC, the afternoon was so pleasant that I decided to walk down Fifth Avenue past the Empire State Building to Thirty-Third Street where I headed west toward the main entrance for Penn Station.

Something made me look, “eyes left.” Perhaps it was the fire-engine red façade? Perhaps it was the American and Republic of Ireland flags flying in the wind above the façade, or was it the serendipitous bicycle mounted above the sign? 

That sign read: “Foley’s NY Bar & Restaurant.”

I jaywalked to the south side of Thirty-Third Street where my eyes locked on to two vertical baseball bats mounted on the doors that substituted for handles forcing a big smile to fill my face. I stepped inside to a sea of memorabilia that overwhelmed me, so I turned to the bar, found a vacant stool, sat down and ordered a pint of Guinness.

The bartender was a tall, thin and blond young woman named Ailis (Alice). Friendly and at ease, she chatted me up with her thick brogue while letting my stout settle. The saloon was empty, this being about 3:30 in the afternoon, too late for lunch and too early for happy hour. I told her the place was remarkable. “Well,” Ailis replied, “Shaun Clancy, the owner, prides himself in operating ‘An Irish Bar with a Baseball Attitude,’ and, ‘where everything is 6, 2 and even.”*

I enjoyed my chat and my Guinness while I made two vows. First, I would replay my visit each time I left the library with two seasons of newspaper copies in my bag and second, that I would tell Mike Scott about my find.

Mike and I had been meeting in Manhattan for several months since his retirement spending our time finding new and different places to eat and drink. I called him the next day and simply said, “Michael, I believe I have just found our new Manhattan luncheon home.”

We agreed to rendezvous in Penn Station the following week. Memory doesn’t do justice to that first visit, but I guarantee that, first off, we both were overwhelmed by the amount and variety of both baseball and other sports memorabilia crammed  into the bar and dining room.

But it was the owner, his father, the staff and the regulars that impressed us the most. We looked at each other on our return trip to Penn Station and agreed, “We just found our luncheon home in the city.”

  • Six, 2 and even is a horseracing term that describes the odds for the expected first, second finishing horses in the next race and alerts the bettor things are as they appear to be.

(To be continued)