John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Category: Uncategorized

Phil Brown’s War Experience

Introduction:

My Texas friend, Phil Brown, was a “plank owner” of LSM 317 being part of the original crew who took delivery of this landing craft from the Pullman Co. shipyard in Illinois. He served on this ship until it returned to Long Beach for decommissioning after hostilities ended.

Phil and I became friends when he was the Manager of Marsh & McLennan’s Dallas office and I worked with them on an unsuccessful attempt to produce a  new marine client. Phil enjoyed commenting on my blog and this is what led me to prompt Phil to write about his World War II experiences that I originally published in 2016. His story begins when the original crew of LSM 317 took delivery of this landing ship at the Pullman – Standard shipyard on Lake Calumet, Chicago. Phil died on November 1, 2020 and this is his story. Phil Brown: RIP.

Crash Divers

Phil Brown

Our crew stood at attention on 28 July 1944 as LSM 317 was commissioned. The ensign was raised, and the first watches were set. We cast off into the Calumet River and sailed along the Chicago, Des Plaines and Illinois River making our way to the Mississippi River. We only navigated the Mississippi during day light making stops at Memphis, Greenville, Vicksburg and Baton Rouge.

One of our pilots was an old-timer who quit commercial piloting to serve his country. He was really pissed off at his fellow pilots who continued to work on commercial traffic earning big bucks. He frequently flipped them the bird as we passed their tows. Using professional river pilots was a good thing as none of our five officers had ever been to sea and the Skipper, Lt. Warren Ayers had previously been a professional musician.

The guns were installed when we reached New Orleans and, from there we sailed to Galveston where we underwent two or three weeks of intensive training and shakedown.  From Galveston we sailed across the Gulf of Mexico to the Panama Canal where we made a short stop for minor repairs and equipment replacement before transiting to the Pacific side.

Next stop, Bora Bora, which appeared after a 19-day cruise. I thought of paradise; it looked just like what I always though a South Seas island should look like and the locals were friendly, trading shell jewelry for canned goods and other ordinary items. From there we headed to New Caledonia, the Admiralty Islands and stops in New Guinea before reaching our ultimate destination…the Philippines.

Kamikaze was not a word that we knew when we witnessed our first such attack on December 10, 1944. It found us loading supplies to be taken around Leyte to Ormoc on the opposite side of Leyte Gulf. MacArthur planned to circle behind the Japanese who were stubbornly defending the mountains keeping us from punching through to the other side. The Japanese were also using the Ormoc beaches to reinforce and resupply their troops.

We had finished taking on supplies from the Liberty Ship, William S. Ladd, anchored well offshore…As I recall, mostly miscellaneous gear including some artillery shells. We had moved back to the Red Beach area where we grounded 317 to take on an infantry unit that had been pulled out of the lines to be reinserted for the back door attack…About that time General Quarters (GQ) sounded: a squawking klaxon horn followed by the command: “THIS IS NO DRILL; ALL HANDS MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS.”

Our rather primitive radar showed three bogeys approaching. Some of the larger ships opened up with what we thought were 5-inch guns… but the planes were too high for our 40mm and 20mm guns. Two or three planes were all we saw. They made their way toward the main concentration of ships where one started down in a steep dive right into and through the number two hatch of the William S. Ladd, where we had taken on supplies! The Ladd exploded and sank in a few minutes; we were thunderstruck; had never seen anything like that and didn’t want to ever see anything like it again!! We’d been so close minutes before!

My GQ station was on top of the conning tower as the Captain’s talker. Several of us discussed what we had just seen and thought it would not happen again…WRONG!!!

On the runs to attack and later resupply Ormoc Beachhead I think we encountered suicide planes every time. We came to refer to the attacks as “crash divers” or “suicide” attacks. Do not remember hearing the term Kamikaze until the invasion of Okinawa.

They were scary and intimidating. On December 11, we were part of a convoy of eight LSMs and four LCIs escorted by six destroyers, supported by four F4U Corsairs. We were ordered to GQ and within minutes several low-flying planes came in front to back attacking our little convoy. They were so low we were unable to lower our field of fire for fear of hitting our own ships. One plane flew so low right over us we could easily see the pilot before he crashed into the destroyer, USS Reid, right behind us striking the torpedo tubes. The Reid blew in half and sank within two minutes. I never forgot what that looked like. Several of us began to pull back to pick up survivors but were ordered to continue our run. Only one LSM was designated to stay to attempt rescues and less than half of Reid’s crew was saved.

We were scared!!! At least I was scared!!! About that time the Corsairs covering our convoy chased off the remaining Japanese aircraft. We reached Ormoc that night but waited until about 3 or 4 am to beach. Out behind us, our escorts were in a serious fire fight with some Japanese destroyers attempting a last-ditch resupply of troops and supplies. Everyone was shooting everywhere, and I am sure some damage was caused by our own fire…I hate the term, “friendly fire” as it did not seem friendly. Our own radar and early daylight told us we were landing on the same beach only ¾ mile from the enemy. It was difficult getting off the beach and on our way home across Leyte Gulf, more air attacks but no crash dives.

Going on the beach to land supplies and troops was not much fun but the crash divers added a scary element as we felt there was no way to stop them. Granted we were small and insignificant; targets of last resort but on one trip a LSM was hit, the aircraft engine went right through the ship.

LSM 317 had damage that prevented us from being sent to Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Those were much worse. Okinawa was the real climax of the Kamikaze.

As an ironic twist, after the Japanese surrendered, we were ordered to Korea to take the surrender of several of their installations. One turned out to be a rather large Kamikaze base. As I remember the island was off the tip of Korea and named Sasha To. The remaining troops had been ordered to stack their arms, rifles in one stack, side arms in another, machine guns in a third, etc. Troops lined up and their officers delivered the bowing and surrendering.

The best thing about this spot was that we liberated a Japanese motorcycle with a sidecar. One of our mechanics fixed it and we had a great time with it along with a jeep we had liberated before the war ended. When the tires finally blew out on the motorcycle, we used a fire hose to wrap around the wheels and wired it on. We took it down onto the land whenever we beached the LSM, opened the bow doors, lowered the ramp and zoomed off; great fun!!!

I had accumulated enough points for discharge once the ship arrived in Long Beach. I knew LSM 317’s sailing days were over. She was completely worn out and would be sold for scrap. I decided to keep the commissioning ensign and our “lucky” flag, the one we ran up during hot landings. So tattered, it was not much more than a star square, but I packed both in mothballs and years later, I mounted and framed the ensign and the flag  in two cases that are still proudly displayed.

Looking back at so much confusion when I left 317, I still regret not taking a pair of good binoculars and the ship’s navigation clock.     

Foley’s NY: Part 5

Paradise Lost

Over the years our visits to Foley’s followed a certain rhythm that began with our rendezvous in dreary Penn Station. My Long Island Railroad (LIRR) train arrived on the half-hour meaning I would arrive first just before 11:30 am. On a good day, Mike’s Jersey Transit train arrived 10 to 15 minutes later. On a bad day, its actual arrival was anybody’s guess. Fortunately, the good days outnumbered the bad. We’d meet at one of the columns just outside the LIRR waiting room that we called “the pole.” From there, we’d stroll the three blocks to 18 West 33rd Street.

The bartender, hostess and waiters would warmly greet us and lead or follow us to our table located in the right-hand corner of the dining room. Without our having to ask, the bartender would hold up two imperial pint glasses* as we’d pass by. We would nod slightly signaling her to draw two Guinness’s from the tap.

*An imperial pint is 568 ml while a US pint is 475 ml.

Our golden period was our time with Alish, Deidra and Kathy. It continued when Shaun hired two younger waitresses, Kira and Steffi. These two youngsters exuded Irish wit and charm making sure Mike and I always enjoyed good craic when they were working the floor.

But such is life that relationships end. Deidra was the first to leave. Then we lost Kathy and eventually, both Kira and  Steffi at the same time.

Still, good times continued as staff came and left. Foley’s  remained our luncheon home where life was good and never disappointed. In time, Steffi returned as Shaun’s assistant manager.

Mike Scott’s went through two extended rough periods health-wise. He suffered a serious fall in 2016 that put him on the injured reserve list for several months. I arranged for Shaun, Papa John and me to visit Mike once he was recuperating.

His second crisis began at the end of 2018, a crisis that was exacerbated by a mistaken diagnosis. This mistake gave free rein for the actual problem, a failing heart valve, that continued to wreck his health during 2019. This led to several hospital and nursing home / rehab stays all to no avail. Finally, the real culprit was found! Long story: short, after receiving the far less invasive TAVR valve replacement procedure at NYU in Manhattan  he recovered  in relatively short order. Thank God!

Still, he remained fragile. I had kept Shaun abreast of all of Mike’s progress and setbacks and he volunteered to visit Mike with me. We drove down together to Red Bank, NJ on December 18, 2019 and had a lively lunch at a pizza trattoria on the beach.

During our return ride, Shaun voluntarily alerted me that Foley’s 33rd Street location would eventually be gone. “The owners’ agent informed me they aren’t going to renew the lease.” (I believe it had two or three more years to run.)

Shaun spelled out several alternative scenarios, “I might look for a new location around Tampa, Florida. Vegas is an option, or I might just rent out my collections to other sports bars. I know an attorney who specializes in those kind of leases and he thinks I have enough to outfit four or five bars.”

I asked questions, but decided not to ask, “Why not another Manhattan location?” Shaun was a proud saloon keeper and, if he didn’t raise that as a realistic alternative, neither would I.

Mike gained sufficient strength and confidence to meet me at the pole for what turned out to be our last lunch at Foley’s on March 5, 2020.

Our place was quiet that day. Shaun had shipped Papa John back to Cavan in February after John had been whipsawed by the flu with a case so bad that he had to be briefly hospitalized.

Shaun was in Florida and Tom Cahill couldn’t make it that day. We knew Covid 19 was spreading but I don’t recall a sense of imposing doom. Steffi greeted Mike as her long-lost friend. We had out typical Foley’s lunch, gossiping about our former Marsh adventures and colleagues, living and dead, the state of the world, this and that and so it goes.    .

Nine days later, the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York announced a quarantine. A complete closure dropped down on all of us like an iron curtain, this time, not one of ideology, but rather, one caused by an extreme health crisis.

I knew things were bad and it would be hard for Foley’s to survive, but it wasn’t until Shaun’s May 28 phone call that I knew the game was over.

Near the end of October, Shaun Clancy posted a selfie on his Facebook Account. The photo showed him standing on the southside of 33rd Street with the façade of  number 8 West 33rd Street visible over his left shoulder. The red doorway and glass doors remained but the top sign That proclaimed FOLEY’S NY  in gold letters placed on a black background had been covered with a crude sign that announced:

FOR RENT: Tony Park, 917-843-5622, Text Only

Sadly, the photograph reminded me of a line from my favorite baseball novel, Bang the Drum Slowly: “Sad, it makes you want to laugh; sad, it makes you want to cry.”

Frank Sinatra included a song in his repertoire, There Used to be a Ballpark Here, in memory of Ebbets Field:

And there used to be a ballpark

Where the field was warm and green

With a joy I’ve never seen

And the air was such a wonder

From hot-dogs and beer

Yes, there used to be a ballpark here.

It will be all too soon when few, if any, will recall that there used to be an outstanding sports bar called, Foley’s NY, at 18 West 33rd Street where “everything was six, two and even.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Foley’s NY Part 4 B

The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame (Continued)

Shaun truly valued his Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame (IAB HOF.) In 2011, when Nolan Ryan explained to Shaun how much he regretted not being able to attend his induction ceremony, Shaun was so moved by his call that he travelled to Arlington, Texas to personally present Ryan with his plaque.

Shaun and his Dad, Papa John, also made the trip to California to present Vince Scully with his plaque.

But Shaun also injected Irish wit and humor into the process. He went to great ends to identify a possible nominee’s Irish roots so that they could qualify for inclusion. Despite his attempts at accommodations, valued baseball friends remained excluded. A correction being in order, Shaun announced an unusual path to honor those without any identifiable Irish roots:

“In 2018, The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame will also present its annual Pete Caldera-Duke Castiglione ‘I Didn’t Know You Were Irish Award,’ which goes to an honoree whose Irish roots are not widely known. This year’s honoree is Tyler Tumminia, senior vice president of the Goldklanng Group, which owns several professional baseball teams.”

Pete Caldera is a former sports reporter who covered the Yankees. He is also a local Metropolitan area entertainer, a Frank Sinatra cover singer and Shaun’s good friend.

Duke Castiglione is also Shaun’s good friend, a sports reporter and talk show host based in Boston. Duke’s father, Joe, has been a Red Sox radio broadcaster since 1983 and by 2004, when the Red Sox won their first World Series since God invented dirt in1918, Joe was Boston’s lead play by play announcer.

On one of our lunch visits, we found Shaun sitting with a group of guys at the Red Sox table in the opposite corner from our table. Shortly after we arrived, Shaun stood up and walked over to us. “Mister Scott,” he commanded, “Put out your hand and open your palm.” Mike did as he was told, and Shaun dropped Joe’s 2004 World Series ring into it. “Come over and meet Joe Castiglione. I know you’ve listened to him enough times over the radio. Now it’s time to meet the man.”

Mike followed  while I watched from our table. They greeted each other warmly, Mike gave Joe a brief explanation of his father’s love for the Sox that he and his brother, Kevin, inherited and uphold. “Try it on,” Joe suggested and proudly, Mike slipped it onto his ring finger to both of their delight.

The IAB HOF class of 2013 included Joe McEwing who continues to be a coach with the Chicago White Sox. Shaun engineered the date for the induction ceremony so that it coincided with the dates that the Sox would be in town to play the Bronx bombers up at Yankee Stadium. Joe has a splendid reputation and is well-liked by his fellow coaches and players. The entire White Sox coaching staff and their manager, Robin Ventura, attended his induction. So too did the Mets star and team leader, David Wright. Albeit it was a cameo appearance, but Wright didn’t want to miss this honor. Shaun later explained to Mike and me that when David Wright was a rookie and Super Joe was nearing the end of his playing career, Joe introduced Wright to Foley’s.

Mike was too ill to attend the 2019 induction ceremony, but I attended with my son Michael. The inductees were two time National League MVP, Dale Murphy, Phillies broadcaster, Tom McCarthy, Atlanta Braves manager, Brian Snitker, documentary film producer, John Fitzgerald, The Emerald Diamond (about the first Irish national baseball team) and former Red Sox CEO, John Harrington.

We were disappointed that Murphy didn’t attend, but the other inductees put on a good show.

When Shaun introduced  John Fitzgerald, he pointed out that Fitz was also the founder of the Irish American Baseball Society (IABS) dedicated to supporting…”the game of baseball in Ireland and celebrates the contributions of Irish Americans to baseball in America.”

Shaun took the opportunity to explain that he and Fitz would be cooperating with each other to achieve these goals. As part of this effort, Fitz would play a role in the IAB HOF.

Unfortunately, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” Ironically, we knew nothing about the virus we would come to know as “Covid 19,” a virus that would change everything that we took for granted in ways unimaginable in that summer of 2019.

Foley’s NY: Part 4A

The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame

On a spring day in 2010 Mike and I grabbed onto one of those vertical baseball bats to enter Foley’s for lunch. Curiously, we found the bar to be empty while the dining room looked packed alerting us that something was going on. As we reached the hostess’ station, Kathy stopped us and asked, “What are you doing here? Don’t you know this is a private event?”

Obviously, we were clueless. “Kathy, we just came in to have lunch.” One of us blabbered.

Kathy was by now our friend who noted the disappointment we expressed. “Okay, let me get you a table away from the action. Please don’t draw attention to yourselves.”

She procured a table for two in the back corner of the dining room where we could watch the action without being intrusive. Serendipitously, we had crashed Shaun’s induction  ceremony for  the class of 2010 into the Irish-American Baseball Hal of Fame. (IAB HOF.) Attendance was by invitation only. We had discovered another of Shaun’s treasurers by sheer accident. .

Understand, Shaun loves baseball and Ireland. One of his ambitions is to marry these interests and his IAB HOF is a manifestation of this desire. This was his third induction ceremony and it had obviously taken off in popularity within the Major League Baseball community. Previous inductees included the legendry Connie Mack, actor, Kevin Costner, (Field of Dreams, among other baseball movies,) Tug McGraw, Arthur (Red) Foley, the New York sportswriter who was the namesake for Shaun’s saloon and legendary announcer, Vince Scully.

From our bleacher seats, we watched Shaun introduce the Class of 2010 that included Tim McCarver, the catcher extraordinaire and renown broadcaster and Brian Cashman, the NY Yankees general manager. We enjoyed the festivities and the ceremonies from our cheap seats  being careful to remain invisible. The highlight of the day happened when Tim McCarver approached our table. “Say fellas, do me a favor and point me in the right direction for the men’s room.” McCarver made his request in the same voice and tone that he used for commenting on his NBC Game of the Week broadcasts.

Shaun noticed our behavior and began inviting us to future induction ceremonies. In time, he even directed us to sit at the same table with the inductees. Sometimes this didn’t work out like in 2015 when Bill Murray was a no show but there were others that were wonderful experiences.

My personal favorite was lunch with David Cone in 2014. Shaun had us arrive early and directed us to sit at our usual round table in the right-hand corner close to the mic. “Leave the seat facing away from the corner vacant for Coney and sit in the two seats on either side.” Shaun made it sound like we were to be Mr. Cone’s bodyguards and our size did afford him privacy if not protection.

Cone was a delightful lunch partner that day who regaled us with wonderful stories. Mike asked him about being a Red Sox – particularly a Yankees game at Fenway Park in 2001, David’s last year in baseball. “You were pitching for the Red Sox opposing Yankees’ starter, Mike Mussina. Mussina was pitching a perfect game and you had a shut out going into the ninth inning.”

David looked at Mike with a measure of excitement, smiled and picked up the conversation. “It could have been yesterday. Tino Martinez hit a single, but Jorge Posada popped up for the first out. Paul O’ Neill hit a perfect double-play grounder that should have ended the inning and my outing.”

Mike interjected, “But the Sox second baseman, Lou Merloni, whiffed on the play.”

“Correct,” David agreed smiling, while shaking his head. “Instead of getting out of the inning, I had runners at first and third with only one out.”

Mike asked, “I recall, Joe Kerrigan, the Red Sox manager came out of the dugout and asked you if you wanted to stay in the game?”

“Right you are Mike! You have a good memory. I told him what he wanted to hear, ‘leave me in.’ The last thing I wanted to do was give up the ball when I still had a shutout to protect.”

The next Yankee batter, Enrique Wilson, hit a double that scored Clay Bellinger who had replaced Martinez as a pinch runner.

Cone: “Kerrigan took me out of the game. I knew my career was almost over. This could have been my last hurrah, but Mike (Mussina) had a better day. What was utterly amazing was, as I neared the dugout, the Fenway sell-out crowd broke into a standing ovation.

“Guys, understand how amazing that was. 2001 was my only year on the team and I had pitched against their Sox with the Royals, the Blue Jays and, of course, their evil empire, the Yankees.

“What a thrill!”

“You tipped your hat to the crowd,” Mike replied.

“Yes, I did, they deserved that.”

I sat there mesmerized taking it all in. I’ve realized that professional athletes have a photographic memory of all their highs and lows. But David Cone’s responses to Mike Scott’s  prompts were terrific.

All this dialogue took place over servings of cheeseburgers, fries and a couple rounds of Guinness. 

For sure, for me and for Mike, the best Foley’s lunch, ever.

Foley’s NY: Part Three

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.)       

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)          

The Covid 19 Blues

Don’t you find from time to time sometimes unexpectantly, you are assaulted by an attack of The Covid 19 Blues? You feel angry or plain lousy: The Covid 19 Blues:

Once I built a railroad,

I made it run,

made it race against time.

Once I built a railroad,

now it’s done.

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al.

It was Al all the time.

Why don’t you remember,

I’m your pal,

Brother, can you spare a dime? 

In retrospect, it seems that we went from a normal existence into full Covid shut-down in the blink of an eye. I’m reading a book about the fall of Poland to the Nazis and the Soviets that parallels what those of us in the tri-state region who are overwhelmed by lost  battles followed by retreat, followed by another battle lost, etc. etc. until final surrender. A total shutdown of almost everything was ordered. In New York, effective at the close of business on Friday, March 20.   

March morphed into April. Hording became a mantra, shelves emptied, as people began to die in serious numbers. The virus spread with an uncanny speed and the death rate rose in New York City and state at an alarming rate. Mistakes, lack of preparation, lack of understanding and bad luck conspired to exacerbate the volatile spread of the virus.

As a Nation, we grounded to a halt. Education, business, entertainment, sports, commerce, travel, hotels, stores, shops and even entire malls were forced to close. Exceptions were granted for those establishments offering vital supplies like food and, thankfully, alcohol.

My first attack of the blues hit in late March as I watched a weekday local morning news show. Their camera presented a view of The Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Ave.) looking north from Forty-Eighth Street up to Central Park at Fifty-Nineth Street. As I took at the scene, I exclaimed, “OMG, there is absolutely no traffic in sight, not one bus, taxi, private auto or truck on the roads nor any pedestrians on the sidewalks.” Shockingly. I realized; Manhattan was a ghost town!

Since then reminders of what has been lost and the losses that are still to come grabs at me when I allow my mind to go to that place. I dare not think what the future holds. There is going to be a reckoning in the short to medium time frames as New York City, CT, NJ and NY as local cities and counties run out of money. In fact, they have already run out of money, but they can rely on enough fiscal manipulations to play with before payroll checks start to bounce in October or November.

However the outcome of our presidential election is decided, Uncle will be hard pressed to be able to write a check to cover the outstanding debt of so many states, counties and municipalities/ The future is scary. No wonder we get depressed.

These blues can keep me awake at night when I allow them to invade my psyche or I dwell on the crises enveloping us. The virus is paramount because it hangs over us. Not just the present attack, but, when will the second-round strike and will the promised vaccines be a Godsend or a fraud? Add to that, a stew of racial strife, worries about loss of jobs, layoffs, the confusion and conflicts with school re-openings and closings and our upcoming election conspire to produce a perfect storm for insomnia and depression.

Fortunately for my wife and I, regardless how hard the night, our morning stirrings usually attract the attention of two old friends, a eleven-year-old Yellow Labrador by the name of Tessie and a ten-year old Golden by the name of Max. These two very best friends invade our sleeping quarters and separately or together, put on a show to remind us that they are happy to be alive for another day and so should we.

Their gentle souls liberate us to remain optimistic and steer toward a good horizon. The Covid Blues are real and continuous. Every day it can seem there’s another thing. Such is life, but we can choose to deal with it, shake it off and move on. Think like a retriever:

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.

I can see all obstacles in my way.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.

It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

Just When You Thought It Could Not Get Worse

Oy vay, what’s next? A life-ending comet strikes the earth. Yellowstone National Park morphs into super-volcano saturating most of North America in rocks, ash and lava, or an earthquake swallows the West Coast?

Day after day,

The people moving to LA.

Please don’t you tell anybody

The whole place slipping away.

Hurricanes abound, Covid stalks the land while we are clueless what will happen next. To top it off we are experiencing a raw, divided and divisive presidential campaign. Damn, what other crises abound?

Then just like that, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. RIP Justice Ginsberg.

OMG, OMG!

The election is five weeks away. Unless President Trump is re-elected, his term in office would end on January 20, 2021. However, the new Congress will be sworn into office on January 3, 2021.

Politics in the land of US is so partisan, nasty and radical that common sense, meaningful debate and compromise are out of the question. In ordinary times, the nomination of the new justice would be delayed until the new Congress was installed and the president was inaugurated. I believe that is the proper way to steer our country. Expediency is the enemy of our Republic.

The idea that the GOP could put a nominee on track for Senate confirmation prior to the election, seemed to me a fool’s errand, but that’s exactly what the GOP plans to do. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, says he has the votes to confirm Trump’s unnamed nominee (as of this writing) and he is ready to proceed.  

When President Barak Obama nominated Merrick Garland as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in March of 2016, the same Senator McConnell prevented Judge Garland’s confirmation from ever coming to a vote. I disagreed with these tactics even though I understood what they were doing, preserving a seat that had belonged to a conservative justice, Anthonin Scalia.

I can just imagine the kind of tactics Senator Chuck Schumer, the Minority Leader, and the activist Democratic Senators will resort to derail the nomination? First off, they are trying to turn two additional GOP Senators to join  Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who have already announced their defection. Failing that, I expect the Democrats will dig up as much dirt as they can or threaten the use of a nuclear response like packing the court.

I already feel badly for the unfortunate woman who Trump selects who unwisely accepts his nomination. At least the Republicans were polite assassins when it came to Judge Garland. This time it promises to be a complete sh** show.