If you stumbled into Foley’s NY Pub and Restaurant last Friday night, you’d find some interesting guests on hand.
Sure you’d be amazed by the vast amount of memorabilia decorating the inside of the bustling pub, with over 3,000 signed baseballs, 500-plus bobbleheads, World Series rings, and jerseys hanging from the ceiling. You’ll see several tables near the back of the establishment serving burgers and fare named after several current and former ballplayers including Joe McEwing‘s mac and cheese and David Wright‘s chicken sandwich.
Not to mention that the West 33rd Street baseball themed bar is home to the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame, where the bar’s owner, Shaun Clancy, decided to recognize players, managers, executives, journalists, and entertainers of Irish descent that have positively impacted the game of baseball.
Even with all of that, the sights and sounds coming from the bar located in the front is what had the attention of many fans on hand that evening. If you walked in oblivious to what was going on, you might not have realized that two of the bartenders were not the normal staff.
When you have two former players who played for both New York teams, and combined to win 356 games and seven World Series Championships, it isn’t hard to recognize Al Leiter and David Cone, especially in New York.
Leiter and Cone lent their star appeal to Foley’s to aid in raising money for medical expenses for the family of Dawn Black, a native of Little Ferry, NJ, and a member of the Foley’s community who is suffering from the devastating disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or more commonly referred to as ALS.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Its debilitating nature is one that eventually can take away the simplest things we take for granted; walking, dressing, writing, speaking, and swallowing. According to The ALS Association, it’s estimated that there are more than 30,000 Americans that may currently be affected by the disease, with the average life expectancy of two to five years from the time of diagnosis.
Hall of Fame first baseman Lou Gehrig brought national attention to the disease in 1939, when he announced his retirement from the game at the age of 36. Gehrig gave his famous “Luckiest Man” speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939 and passed away less than two years later, just shy of his 38th birthday. To this day, many often call amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Clancy found out that the family was in need of covering medical expenses, including home modifications such as a roll-in shower. While Clancy doesn’t personally know Dawn, he knows her brother Sam, a police officer who played a significant role in helping build the Little Ferry field that was dedicated and named in honor of the Mets’ late media relations executive, Shannon Forde.
“Her brother was very influential in helping to build the field in Little Ferry that’s named after Shannon Forde,” said Clancy. “Shannon was a good friend of ours and I’m like, you know what, Sam did this without anyone asking him and I’m like well you know, I can help the family a little bit.”
“He paid it forward without being asked and we’re just helping him out. If we all do a little bit it all matters.”
The fundraiser began with an autograph and photo-op session in the back of the bar, where fans donned number thirty-six Cone jerseys while others were wearing New York Mets hats and paraphernalia. The pair of aces were congenial and all smiles seated at a back table as fans lined up to meet and recount some of their favorite stories of the two.
Leiter, 51, is a busy man in the broadcasting world these days, working as a MLB Network studio analyst along with working as a YES Network game analyst. His hectic schedule doesn’t go unnoticed by Clancy, who commented that Leiter works more than Warren Buffett. Even with a busy schedule, the decision to take part in the charity fundraiser was a no-brainer for the former left-hander.
“Shaun Clancy came to me and said, ‘Hey, you want to do a little fundraiser with David Cone? A little celebrity bartender challenge.’ I said, absolutely,” said Leiter. “So David and I worked out a date here at Foley’s. People having a good time, they come out, and David’s great. We raised some money for a good cause.”
Cone, 54, has also found a second career in broadcasting, working in the YES Network booth as an analyst for several years. Cone brings his analytical approach to the booth, but on Friday he brought his charitable side to Foley’s.
“I love Foley’s, Shaun Clancy’s a great guy and they do so much for so many charities,” said Cone. “This one in particular, ALS, is close to my heart because there’s no cure for ALS. It’s a devastating disease that a lot of people just really suffer with and have no hope.”
After nearly an hour of signing baseballs, photos, and jerseys among other items, Cone and Leiter made their way to the bar in what was dubbed “The Battle of the Baseball Broadcasters Behind the Bar”, where fans got to order drinks served up by the former All-Star pitchers.
Each had their own bucket to collect tips, with Cone’s reading “Coney’s Cash” and “Leiter’s Loot” on Leiter’s. The goal was simple: whoever collected the most money at the end was the top bartender. For two competitive players, both of which ended their professional careers more than a decade ago, the chance for bragging rights was on the line.
Fans erupted in “Lets Go Leiter” and “Da-vid Cone” chants throughout the near 45 minutes of bartending. The two were firing off good natured insults, with Leiter making it known to Cone when he received a big tip by ringing the bar’s bell on several occasions. Leiter’s infectious smile and enthusiasm galvanized the crowd, while Cone’s more laid back personality drew fans to remind Leiter at one point that Cone has the upper hand in one aspect; he pitched a perfect game while Leiter pitched a no-hitter.
Watching the two interact with fans while serving up drinks demonstrated the love that these New York icons still have in this city, with fans more than willing to donate to help out for a great cause.
In the end, Leiter, who has the 6th most wins (95) and 7th most innings pitched (1360) in Mets history came out on top, with Clancy announcing him top bartender just before 9 pm. However, the real winners of the night were those who came out to donate and support Dawn Black and her family, who were in attendance and watching the event unfold. The amount of goodwill on hand that evening was a reminder of how people who come come together can make a big difference in someone else’s life.