The Philadelphia restaurant and bar that gained attention during the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs as the originator of the St. Louis Blues’ anthem “Gloria” isn’t the only East Coast connection to the team.
Another hangout for St. Louis Blues fans, including actor and St. Louisan John Hamm, is Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant, 18 W. 33rd St., known as New York’s premier baseball bar with a collection of almost 4,000 baseballs signed by players, celebrities, religious leaders and others. It’s long been a St. Louis Cardinals fans favorite and sports the autographs of St. Louis native Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Cardinals’ baseball players Stan Musial, Albert Pujols and Lou Brock, among other Cardinals.
But it’s an autographed baseball by a man dear to Musial and other St. Louisans — St. John Paul II — that bar owner Shaun Clancy sought because he thought it would top any other baseball.
In the early 2000s, Clancy, who came to the United States in 1991, met a baseball scout, Tom “T-Bone” Giordano, who was involved in promoting baseball in Italy. Giordano had baseballs signed by two popes, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Clancy’s admiration for St. John Paul II dates to 1979 and the papal visit to Clancy’s native Ireland, where his aunt and uncle brought the then 9-year-old to Phoenix Park in Dublin to see the Holy Father.
At a Mass in Galway for the youth of Ireland, St. John Paul II said in English, “Young People of Ireland, I Love You!” That statement “always resonated with me and I felt like this guy was talking to me,” said Clancy, who still vividly recalls that papal visit, much as St. Louisans do the saint’s visit to St. Louis in 1999.
Knowing Clancy’s affinity for the now-saint and how much he’d like to have the baseball, Giordano “would bust my chops about it,” Clancy said. “He even sent me a pic of the balls to tease me.”
Clancy jokingly offered to find a switch-hitting second-baseman who could hit 40 home runs for the scout in return for the ball.
Though Giordano kindly had a papal blessing document done in Clancy’s name, the ball was the “white elephant,” the “jewel in the crown” that eluded his baseball collection, Clancy said.
Giordano died this year on Valentine’s Day. Clancy missed talking baseball and joking around with his friend and honored him by hosting a memorial for Giordano at Foley’s. It was during that memorial that Giordano’s daughter presented Clancy with the ball signed by the saint and a papal coin and plaque that had been presented to T-Bone by the Italian Baseball Federation.
“Now I can now say I have a ball signed by an actual saint and close to 4,000 signed by sinners,” Clancy joked.
“I was floored, and I still am floored,” said Clancy, who said he’s not an overly “religious guy” but strives to be a good Christian. “Pope John Paul has always had a very special place for me.”
Before going to see the pope, Clancy said, he related to him only “as a guy we prayed to at Mass who we’d see in the news talking in Italian.”
He soon connected with him “as a younger, hipper pope. The guy skied for God’s sake,” Clancy said.
Foley’s is the biggest Cardinals bar outside of St. Louis, Clancy claimed, and it features a display of Musial items and even a Saint Louis University Billiken, a mascot that befuddles Clancy. The restaurant also features toasted ravioli and provel cheese. On June 12, at the same time as a Blues Game 7 Stanley Cup Final watch party, St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Derrick Goold was to be on hand to autograph copies of his book, “100 Things Cardinals Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.” On the menu was the Derrick Goold Blues Burger stuffed with (St. Louis) Blue(s) cheese.
Foley’s has done a few fundraising events for St. Louis Priory School in Creve Coeur through a connection with Goold.
During Pope Francis’ visit to New York in 2015, Clancy offered to donate 1,000 meals for homeless people in exchange for a ball signed by the current pope. Clancy didn’t get the baseball but did donate the meals.
The St. John Paul II baseball is two cases away from the Cardinals’ memorabilia. Taking note of a recent losing streak by the St. Louis ballclub, Clancy said, “I have a feeling I’m going to have to move the pope closer or move the pope into it.”