Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Irish Cultural Center, San Francisco & Baseball

The Irish Cultural Center is located at the north-end of San Francisco where Irish heritage is celebrated. It provides its members with banquet facilities for social, athletic and cultural activities near the Golden Gate Recreational Area at Ocean Beach.

The Irish Center serves the Irish and Irish-American community in San Francisco. It is located across from the San Francisco Zoo, close to Harding Park Public Golf Course, Golden Gate Park and is located at 2700 45th Avenue

It has also been home to the San Francisco Old Timers Baseball Association where I performed Ty Cobb on August 11th, 2009 in the Saint Patrick Ballroom.

The group consists of over 300 men who played baseball in San Francisco in High School or College; the Pacific Coast League or other Minor Leagues.

The oldest living member is Rugger Ardizoia (1) who played for the New York Yankees in 1947 and at ago 92, is the oldest living Major League player.

Another member was the late Gino Cimoli who had the distinction of being the first player to step to the plate in the first game to be played in San Francisco at Seals Stadium when the ex-New York Giants played their first game as the San Francisco Giants against the ex- Brooklyn Dodgers, now the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants won, 8-0.

On January 1, 1941, the Old Timers Association of San Francisco was formed. The group is still going strong with 325 members and celebrated it 68th anniversary in 2009.

John McCarthy (a), golf tournament producer and editor of the Old Timers newsletter had seen me perform at another venue and referred me to the Association. He made it clear to me the Old Timers are opposed to speakers as it is more.  of a social gathering for drinking, eating and discussing baseball. His persuasiveness convinced the group to hire me.

Clay Beatty, my creative sound and stage director,  John and I visited the Center about 10 days prior to the event and discovered they had no speakers. I was told to use the microphone at the podium. I explained I move around during my performance and swing my bat. We will need a cordless mic. and speakers. We borrowed two speakers, rented the mic. and Clay bought enough wire for the event.

On the evening of the performance, Clay who is a technical wizard hooked up the speakers and we sat down for a dinner of clam chowder soup, prime rib, baked potato, vegetables, chocolate cake and coffee. After dinner, John introduced the police and fire chiefs of San Francisco, then introduced me and it was show time.

Irish Cultural Centerers
There were about 150 men in the audience including Mike Diaz, who graduated from Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, Calif. and was currently the baseball coach at Terra Nova High.

Mike was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1979 and had  a 4 year career with the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and White Sox from 1983 to 1988. Mike is currently head baseball coach at Centenary College in Shreveport, LA.

In costume
Following the show, I announced the Ty Cobb press conference is open.
People ask Cobb questions such as:
"Did you fight with your teammates or did you sharpen your spikes and spike infielders and catchers?"

"Were you a racist?" they asked. He answered "no."  "What did you think of Babe Ruth?" someone asked." Ruth was a good player, ran fast for a fat man!" Cobb said. This always gets a laugh as Cobb did not like Ruth. This is a fun part of the show as I improvise and answer truthfully with Cobbian wit, as I believe he would have.

Pacifica's resident Ken Mooney took over as president as the organization continues to grow as it approaches its 70th anniversary. Ken was a former San Francisco high school and semi-pro player and has been a member since 1986.
I also interviewed Mr. Len Grilli, long time member, current president  who also provided information.

A long time member of the Association, a graduate of Saint Ignatius High School in San Francisco was Charlie Silvera. Charlie played for the New York Yankees from 1948 to 1956. Charlie is famous for winning 6 World Series rings as Yogi Berra's backup. His last year was with the Chicago Cubs in 1957.

In a recent interview with Mr. Mooney, he told me, "the group meets once a month to reminisce about our playing days and rekindle our friendships. Under the old rules of the club, members had to have baseball experience, such as high school or college or semi-pro to join. That rule has changed so today, you don't need baseball playing experience to join. Just like to socialize, have fun and talk baseball," Ken said.

Posing with Dodgers great Don Newcombe
One of the many myths about Ty Cobb was being Georgia born in 1886, he was a racist.  I am asked this questions at every show I perform. Cobb has been saddled with this myth since he died in 1961.

 Cobb toured the Negro Leagues after he retired in 1928 and saw many great black players such as Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Buck O'Neill and Josh Gibson, to name just a few. They are all members in the Hall of Fame now.

Cobb praised black players like Don Newcombe, Willie Mays,  Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson. He spoke out in favor of integration. "The Negro should be accepted and not grudgingly but wholeheartedly," he said in 1952.

(a) John McCarthy, who passed away June 2, 2015 was a native born-born San Franciscan. He graduated from Lincoln HS in 1955 and attended City College of San Francisco and USF on a baseball scholarship. He created a golf tournament for amateurs and professionals and worked in the golf industry for over 35 years. He was vice president of the Old Timers Baseball Assoc.and wrote their monthly newsletter for many years.                                                                                          

John was a golf enthusiast and baseball fan who followed the San Francisco Giants with passion. 

My heart goes out to his family and friends for without this genial and easygoing gentleman, I would not have had the pleasure to meet and entertain this diverse group of retired baseball players and fans.

(1) It is with sadness that I share the news that " Rugger" Ardizoia, the oldest living Yankee, passed away on July 19, at age 95. My condolences to his family and friends.



No comments:

Post a Comment