Friends from all fields gather to tie green bow on that gift named Cashen

John Steadman

November 23, 1992|By John Steadman

NEW YORK -- Every phase of Frank Cashen's life, personal and professional, was represented. A kaleidoscope combining the past and present. A galaxy of family and friends, gathered for no other reason than to engage in a torrent of enjoyment. He only needed to scan the faces in the room and it was as if he had pressed a button to activate his book of memories.

Even a cowboy singer, Gene Autry, rode in from the West to bthere and a famous song and dance man, Donald O'Connor, let && it be known how pleased he was to have been included. Term it a "hell of a guy" party held for no other reason than to signify what he meant to those present and, yes, to others unable to be there.

The New York Mets owners, Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon, wanted to express how grateful they were for his services and to apprise one and all of the value they placed on the leadership he provided. It was more than a gesture of formality or a bag of platitudes. Cashen's reward is not in the past tense because he's to remain in an ideal position, consultant to the organization now that he has left the general managership to Al Harazin.

Included in the special lineup surrounding him were wife Jean, sons, daughters, sister Mary, employers and co-workers (past and present), beer-drinking companions, advertising executives, sportswriters, golf partners and even an old caddie. They came from Baltimore, New York and points afar to pump his hand, to express their fondness for what he meant to them and, maybe, just coincidentally, to mark the occasion by gradually exercising their elbows.

A giant green bow tie, a Cashen trademark, had been fastened to a wall of J. P. Clare's restaurant, which the Mets had reserved for the tribute. The doors were closed to the public and the only way to be admitted was if your name was on the guest list compiled by the Mets.

It wasn't portrayed as a retirement party, so there were no emotional farewells or long speeches. The Mets, wanting to show Cashen their regard and respect, staged the event exclusively for him. Harazin, a man Cashen hired when he operated the Orioles who later joined him in New York, put it succinctly when he said, "If we had invited all of Frank's friends, we would have had to rent Carnegie Hall."

The gathering was a mix from business and sports, men and women and their spouses. There were Jerry Hoffberger and wife Alice. It was Hoffberger who hired Cashen from the Baltimore News-Post and made him publicity director of a harness track, later director of the National Brewing Co.'s advertising department and then general manager of the Orioles in 1966.

Doubleday called Hoffberger when Cashen's name was suggested to the Mets in 1980. And now at the dinner, 12 years later, Doubleday, kin to Abner, the inventor of baseball, got up to say, "Frank Cashen is the greatest thing to happen to me, as a friend and general manager."

The Mets board chairman explained how Cashen wanted to know if the roles of responsibility were spelled out. "Do I run the club and report to you?" he said Cashen asked. "I said yes, and he took the job. That was the happiest day of my life." And then Doubleday delivered a compliment that put Cashen's performance in a notably flattering perspective:

"If you want to know the kind of impact he had on baseball in New York, then go ask George Steinbrenner [the Yankees owner during most of Cashen's time with the Mets]."

The Yankees suffered at the gate, on the field and in public respect as the Mets dislodged the Yankees as the metropolitan area's favorite team.

But this wasn't a baseball gathering per se. It was, instead, a convention of Cashen admirers. From football were George Young, Ernie Accorsi and Bob Williams, the former Notre Dame All-American; original Orioles associates such as Bob Brown, Phil Itzoe, Joe Hamper, Maeve Berkeridge, Joe McIlvaine, Lou Gorman and Pat O'Donnell, widow of the former broadcaster.

And, then, too, others from Baltimore, such as Tom Myers,

Johnny Dee, Vince Rosetti, Henry Linz and Denny Wedekind. They talked about eating crabs, drinking National Bohemian beer, playing softball for the Esquire Club, excursions on the Chesapeake Bay and trips to Ocean City.

Cashen's parents were born in Ireland and he holds an affection for the country of their birth that takes him there on frequent visits, with all the casualness of crossing the street.

It was obvious that there were more Irish in the place than you'd find at a meeting of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. But being around Cashen made those who didn't have names of Ryan, Clancy, Cummins, Duffy, Healy, Kieran, Marr, McCabe, O'Dowd, O'Neill and O'Shaughnessy feel as if they were Irish, too, because in the grand act of cordiality, which is what life is all about, it matters not the ancestral background or from what lineage you may have evolved.

John Francis Cashen was ecstatic over the event and how it was personalized. This, to him, was a celebration of friendship.

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