Foley’s NY: Part Three

by John Delach

A Man of Letters

Once Foley’s became our home, Shaun encouraged me to hold two book signings there. Fortunately, they were both successful, but I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof before the first one. Kathy took me aside, calmed me down then asked me: “What whiskey do you drink?”

“Jameson,“ I replied.

Cathy poured me three fingers neat on the house and commanded, “Be yourself.”

After my second book signing in 2011, Shaun approached me to be the “As told to” author for his father’s memoir. “JD, I’ve read your books and I like your style. Moreover, Dad likes and trusts you. He has so many stories to tell and I don’t want them to be lost.”

I accepted and so, began an odyssey that continued for almost three years before we finally completed Papa John’s remembrances. He chose the title: “Never Say: I Can’t,” that expressed  his life-long motivation.

When John’s memoir was published, Shaun hosted a signing party at Foley’s. It was a terrific evening that my family attended. So, too did the Irish Counselor General. Curiously, he asked me if I had been paid. When I told him, “Not really?” He replied, “Typical of folks from Cavan.”  

Papa John has lived a rich and fruitful life. His story covers his vast experiences, a career where service and dining are the central themes. His journey began when he became what turned out to be an indentured under-age worker in a London pub in 1948. Once he came of age, (18), he went to sea working in the catering department of many British tramps and liners. He sailed all over the world on several great ships until he finally came ashore in New York City in 1961.

John’s charm, guile and resume opened the doors for two jobs as a waiter at prestigious and exciting venues. At lunchtime, John waited at Toots Shores in its glory days of Cardinal Spellman, Frank Gifford, Frank Costello, Groucho Marx, John Daley and Joe Kennedy. In the evening, he waited at the top of the Rock, the prestigious Rainbow Room.

He met and married Angela during his time in New York. In 1969, they returned to Butlersbridge, County Cavan, where after several fits and starts they became the proprietors of the Derragarra Inn. In 1976, Papa John’s establishment was selected as the best pub in Ireland.

Angela passed and after John’s own heart problems laid him low, he sold the Derragarra in 1992. He returned to America after Shaun established himself here.

A Man of Baseball

Shaun Clancy’s personal business card identifies him as, “Owner.”

Instinctively, he responds directly to any question without hesitation or evasion. That describes Shaun Clancy to a fault. “Take it or leave it, but that’s how I see it!”

Shaun’s a big man, whose size and presence fills a room. He makes it clear that this is his saloon. American baseball is his passion and Foley’s reflected that passion. Shaun has held numerous fund raisers for people in baseball and he actively supported their charities. When a tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa, Alabama where David Robertson, then a relief pitcher with the Yankees, grew up, Shaun turned Foley’s over to Robertson for a night to raise money for the city and its people.

Brian Cashman, the Yankees general manager, supports Covenant House and Shaun did the same for him.  

All and all, he captained a tight ship making sure that it ran smoothly with the customer always in mind. Even though Foley’s was based in Manhattan and a mecca for all Metropolitan teams, he let it be known that his saloon welcomed fans of out of town fans. Foley’s became the home for fans of the Pittsburg Penguins and the St. Louis Cardinals. Several times Scott and I mingled with Cardinal fans when their game was in the afternoon. They lit up the bar in their bright red jerseys and were as nice as nice can be. They watched their Cardinals Shaun’s way, with respect for other customers.

Shaun used whatever means at his disposal to make Foley’s into a major Manhattan sports bar. He advertised on the radio but, more importantly, Shaun became so well known in baseball circles that when the Mets or Yankees played at home visiting players, mangers and even umpires assigned to that evening’s game came into his saloon for lunch.

Shaun’s autographed baseball collection numbered into the thousands. Beyond baseball, it included famous athletes, politicians, entertainers and religious figures. When Pope Francis  visited New York City, Shaun publicly promised to make a major donation to nearby St. Francis of Assisi Church in support of their outreach program that supported the homeless who congregated in Penn Station. His challenge, acquire the pope’s signature on a baseball. It just so  happened that one of the members of my Giants tailgate crew was the president of the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum. I brought a new baseball to our next tailgate and explained to “Joe” what I wanted to accomplish. He accepted the challenge and took the baseball.

At the next tailgate, Joe admitted that other than being introduced to Pope Francis, he never got close to him again.

Sadly, I explained to Shaun what happened. I then presented him with an autographed baseball that read: “Dear Mr. Clancy man, this is for you. Frankie 1”.

I am delighted to say that Shaun enjoyed the prank and mounted my ball in the case above where Mike and I normally sat in the dining area.

(To be continued.)