Monday, August 10, 2015

Frank Gifford, Father Dudley & Me

Growing up on 83rd Street I had two ball players’ photos on display that I cut out of magazines, Frank Gifford and Mickey Mantle. I edged the players’ bodies carefully with a scissor and glued Frank and Mickey onto construction paper and scotch taped them to my bedroom wall.  Mantle died when Mom suctioned him from the wall during one of her vacuuming assaults. Following that tragedy, I removed Frank from his spot at my eye level and stood on my dresser and re-taped him near the ceiling well above my short mother’s reach. Here, for the first time in fifty years, "Frank Gifford on Construction Paper" by Tommy Pryor in 1964. 

Met #16 at a book signing five years ago. Gifford was charming. We shared our Father Benedict Dudley stories. Father Dudley was the pastor of my church, the chaplain for the New York Football Giants, a friend of Frank’s and one of Wellington Mara’s best pals. The photo above is Father Dudley and me after my Confirmation on 82nd Street in 1963.

Knowing Father Dudley, gave me a special connection to the owner of the Giants and my own inside seat with the team, at least in my head. I was Father Dudley’s go-to altar boy at St. Stephen’s. On Giant home game Sundays, he liked flying through Mass so he could hurry up to Yankee Stadium. I was quick and efficient with the altar chores during Mass and hummed through the Latin prayers. Father Dudley’s 21 minute Mass with extra altar wine was a kid’s favorite religious duty. You barely had time to get bored.

Frank had a long belly laugh, when I told him Fr. Dudley threw me off the altar during Mass, when he caught me entertaining my friends in the front pew by making fart noises with the plastic altar card.

Frank told me about living in the Grand Concourse Hotel during the football season and walking down 161th Street to the Stadium's players entrance with a coffee he bought in a deli off Walton Avenue. I told him about hanging out with my father at the hotel's bar waiting for the players to drop in after the game with my heart beating on the outside of my chest. Frank signed my NY Times story, "The Headlock That Won For the Giants," then Borders bookstore staff kicked me out  of the place.

If you enjoy my stories please check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." Available atLogos Book Store or online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 total reviews posted. We're pitching a perfect game. My old world echoes TV's "The Wonder Years" ~ just add taverns, subways and Checker cabs.

You can also purchase my photography portfolio,"River to River - New York Scenes From a Bicycle" on Amazon.


August 20th @ 7:30pm I'm telling a few good ones atApryl Miller & Friends Summer Reading Series #9 Feat. Thomas Pryor.  Send Apryl an RSVP to learn the address ~


Al Hauser said...

Father Dudley would pass out tickets to the Giants game after the 9 am mass at St. Stephen's. This was at the old Yankee Stadium and your view was partially blocked by one of the steel posts. After the first quarter, however, we usually moved to better seats. I have fond memories of watching Frank Gifford and the other Giant greats playing football on Fall Sunday afternoons.

Thomas Pryor said...

thank you, Al, its nice to hear back these memories of our occasionally amazing Yorkville childhoods. I served mass with Eddie a few times.

Al Hauser said...

Back in the 50s, the altar servers were controlled by Sister Ann, she was strict and mean. She would confiscate any tips the boys received for serving at weddings or funerals. The boys had to come up with clever ways to hide their tips from her.

Thomas Pryor said...

Wow! Al, we need to keep the conversation going live one of these days. I Never heard of Sister Ann. Brother Albert was in charge for most of my time as an altar boy, he ran us like farm animals, he had zero sense of humor, but I don't recall him snatching the tips. After Brother Albert, a former Marine priest was in charge, I can't recall his name. He gave us boxing lessons in between beating the shit out of us. Looking forward to your Yorkville photos, if you like, bring them in, and ill scan for you and we can hang and talk while i do it.

Al Hauser said...

Have one great story for you about how one of the priests at St. Stephen's rescued us from the roof lunch room one cold winter's evening from the clutches of the evil Sister Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Love your website, Tommy. As an old Yorkville resident who attended St. Stephen's and La Salle Academy with my best and oldest friend Al, just need to add a brief comment about the dark presence of Sister Charlotte. Sister taught the eight grade. Al and I were sixth or seventh graders at the time and our classroom was right across the hall from her "lair." On occasion, with both class room doors closed of course, I recall a sound emanating from Sister Charlotte's classroom resembling the suddenness of a Stuka dive bomber with the nasal twang of a crazed Boston Red Sox fan on steroids. Rather alarming I'd say. Thankfully sister moved on before we reached the eight grade. WHEW!!!
One more quick comment. As an admittedly crazed "Jints" fan for almost fifty years I recall the dark years of the seventies with much regret too. Nevertheless would still like to pay homage to the never say die efforts of all pro or potential all pro efforts of such heart strong players as Spider Lockhart, John Mendenhall, Bob Tucker and Brad Van Pelt.

Anonymous said...

Some old places I remember...Aronowitz Drug Store, Erma and Herman's Candy store, Schane's Hand Laundry, Tony's Meat Market the latter two below our apartment at 1557 York Avenue, top floor (closest to Tar Beach)Georges' Bar and Grill (always full of Yankee fans,especially during the season, and a tip of the hat to you Tom...Slayton's Cleaners where I recall hearing the last out of the 1955 World Series.

Al Hauser said...

Don't forget Barry's, a bar on the east side of York between 83rd and 82nd, the Green Leaf Bar on 83rd and York, Murray's grocery store across the street, Trosels ?? unsure of the spelling on York near 84th, and Jack Loftus' bar on 85th and York. Anybody remember Joe Cimenti who delivered ice, and getting kerosene by the can from the distributor on 81st street. How about the "Ourselves" Club on 84th between First and York.