By TERRY LYONS
BOSTON – “It just doesn’t exist anymore,” said a patron trying to describe the scene many years after the closing of Runyons – A New York Saloon.
It wasn’t the location. It wasn’t the food or the decor. Runyons was a tiny joint, down a few steps to a ground level bar on a side street located at 305 E. 50th Street in Manhattan where midtown meets the UES.
It wasn’t close to any of the hotels the out-of-towners would frequent and, late night, it was a taxi cab away from everything because there was no easy way to travel from Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to E. 50th Street, to a little brownstone.
It was, however, a relatively short walk from 645 Fifth Avenue (the location of the NBA league office) or from the office of the Commissioner of Baseball or from the NFL. It was also a short walk from the Loews Summit hotel, the home-away-from-home for many a traveling sports team or sports writer, years before the invention of the Marriott point.
It was Elaine’s for the sports-minded, complete with the Baseball encyclopedia and an NBA Guide and Register behind the bar.
Jenkins’ Stages of Drunkenness
- Witty & Charming
- Rich & Powerful
- Against the DH (one version had “Against the SST”)
- F_%@ Dinner
- Witty & Charming II
- For the DH (or “For the SST”)
- Morose & Despondent
Editor’s Note: Published reports on Jenkins’ stages of drunkedness prove that his listing had audibles at No’s 4 and 7, much like a good Bruce Springsteen concert where The Boss inserts options within his set list. The designated hitter (aka “DH”) was inserted with permission after SuperSonic Transport “became passe,” according to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard who did a wonderful take-out on the history and evolution of great sports bars. See HERE. There were other versions, too, where “Crank Up the Enola Gay” was highlighted as a stage. It seems the Stages of Drunkenness was a living, breathing document, as they say, but it wasn’t just based on the stage but rather the level of drunkenness as well.
Runyons had two attributes which mattered most and they were interconnected because a trip to Runyons for an after work drink or even dinner (The Sizzler) or a late-night, post sporting event nightcap, was met by the two intangibles which made the place great.
One: The saloon’s proprietor and frontman, Joe Healey.
Two: Like the joint in Boston, depicted by the 1982-1993 television series, Cheers, Runyons was a place “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” or at least a few people you knew were bound to be there, depending on the season of the year and which event was at The Garden.
The typical Runyons client was etched in a Who’s Who of sports in the late 1970s and throughout the ’80s, if such lists even existed back in a time when St. John’s actually won the Big East tournament. From Jimmy the Greek (CBS Sports) to Pete Axthelm (Newsweek), from the umpires who were just on the field at the Yankees game to the college basketball referees who were working the NIT the next night, Runyons was packed with sports luminaries who were all just a bunch of regulars. You could argue the DH with Gene Orza, the No. 2 guy at the Baseball Players Association or argue Boston College sports with the Globe’s Bob Ryan or the NY Daily News’ Mike Lupica – both Eagles – who each might be shouting the same side of the argument without realizing it.
Baseball and basketball were the sports of choice and bartender Richie Mannion (some called him, “Doc,” but I called him Richie) was a walking encyclopedia for NYC high school basketball. As legend has it, Mannion was once asked to switch channels to change one of the two TVs in the joint, one with the Mets on Channel 9 and the other with the Yankees on Channel 11, as the Opening Ceremony of the 1980 Summer Olympiad was underway from Moscow.
“We don’t do parades here,” Mannion said, “unless we can get a line on it.”
At BIG EAST tournament time, in the BIG EAST glory years, you could barely squeeze in the joint, as executives from the sports division of the CBS network gathered in mass, entertaining friends, fans and media while everyone awaiting the next drink had a company American Express credit card when AMEX only had one green card.
Bill Raftery, the former Seton Hall head coach turned TV commentator would hold court in a Runyons to “Onions” kind of way, while CBS Sports exec Kevin O’Malley was cozying up to the coaches, athletic directors and conference commissioners, teeing-up the next deal over “Seven and Sevens.”
On the night of either May 30 and/or June 1st, some bartender in North Palm Beach near Joe Healey’s funeral will have no idea of what’s gonna happen on his/her shift #Runyons #RIP Joe #RunyonsParty @FinalFour— Terry Lyons (@terrylyons) May 3, 2019
Healey died on Tuesday, April 30 succumbing to the slow progression of Prostate cancer he had diagnosed some 20 years ago. After Runyons (two locations in NYC) closed for good, Healey had moved to North Palm Beach, Florida where he passed away. I found this gem of a blog which pre-dates Digital Sports Desk.
He will be missed and he will be remembered.
Up here in Boston, we lost a dear friend who might’ve been the polar opposite of Healey. Andy Jick, a mild-mannered mensch of a guy who was known only by his voice to everyone who watched Larry Bird play at the old Boston Garden. Jick was the public address announcer for the Boston Celtics and he worked for the Celtics’ game night operation until 1997. He later took on the PA duties for Boston College basketball.
Jick and Healey, connected only by the week of their passing, had two incredibly important human qualities in common. Whether it was the 15,320 at Boston Garden or a dozen late night beer drinkers at Runyons, they each made you feel as comfortable as sitting on a barstool at Cheers.
Jick, only 66 years old, died suddenly but peacefully in his sleep on May 3. His voice will live on in NBA highlight tapes forever.
HERE NOW, THE NOTES: Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer (not to be confused with Cleveland OF Jake Bauers) took exception to a barrage of social media posts and direct messages (DMs) targeting him after a poor outing earlier this week when he let up eight runs, seven earned in 5.0 IP.
Stop online harassment, bullying, and hate speech. pic.twitter.com/yXFkniTkdH— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) May 7, 2019
Get a kick out of this? Following the NBA’s strategic move of opening basketball-specific academies to cultivate worldwide talent, the NFL will open a training academy in London this fall for teenagers who want to tackle the sport. Starting in September, the NFL Academy will offer student-athletes ages 16 to 18 “the opportunity to combine education with the life skills and intensive training in the sport under full-time professional coaches,” the league said in a statement earlier this week. … NBC Sports Net named its announce team for the new Premier Lacrosse League, the venture launched by lacrosse legend Paul Rabil of Johns Hopkins. NBC will have veteran Paul Burmeister host the events with play-by-play voice Brendan Burke and analyst Ryan Boyle handling the action. … The Federation of International Lacrosse rebranded itself as World Lacrosse … This all comes as the NCAA lacrosse tournament opened Wednesday with a play-in game, won by xxx, which led to the opening weekend of the 2019 tournament with four games yesterday and four today, Sunday, May 12th. … The NCAA Lacrosse Final Four is scheduled for its now-traditional Memorial Day weekend stint, May 25-27, at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Coverage is on the ESPN family of networks. … Speaking of ESPN, the network took the plunge and launched its coverage of The Professional Fighters League on Thursday. … Univision Deportes will rebrand its multi-platform sports brand and cable network into TUDN. (In Spanish: Your Sports Network). Under the TUDN name, “Univision will continue to deliver more live soccer than any other U.S. media company while offering a richer and more engaging experience through new world-class programming, all-star talent and enhanced production capabilities,” according to the official announcement and reported by Cynopsis this week. … Olympic gymnastics champion and gold medalist Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass., is joining York Athletics as a brand ambassador. … Forty diamond the rough NBA Draft hopefuls and forty of the NBA G League’s prospects from this past season will attend the 2019 NBA G League Elite Camp, starting today and running through May 14 at the Quest Multisport in Chicago. Afterwards, a select group will be invited to the NBA Draft Combine May 14-19. … Keep in mind, 233 players were listed by the NBA as having applied to the league for early entry to the draft. Sixty players are selected and the rest are immediately thrust into the free agent pool and are able to sign with any team.
Digital Sports Desk posts a once-a-week Sunday Notes column, entitled: “While We’re Young Ideas.” The reference salutes the great Dick Young, of course, but the obvious Rodney Dangerfield connection connotes the style and humorous nature I’ll be seeking to provide as Spring turns to Summer. We’ll see where we stand on Labor Day before I try to break any ground that Cannon or Young walked upon.
Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the attempt and it will become worthy of a Sunday Morning read and share. I’ll welcome the feedback by connecting “While We’re Young Ideas” with Digital Sports Desk(@DigSportsDesk) and (@WhileYoungIdeas). Please follow those two Twitter accounts, along with @terrylyons