Foley’s NY: Part One
by John Delach
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.
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)