Take Me Out of the Ballgame

Having grown up in one pub culture--Ireland--McCaffrey moved to another--Scotland.

"Two things led me to Scotland. I'm Catholic, from the Falls Road in Belfast, and I got a lot of harassment by the British troops. I've been thrown up against walls. And there's a lot of discrimination, employment-wise mostly. If you're a Catholic, you'd better be three steps above anybody else applying for a job, and even then you'll be lucky if you get it.

"So that was one reason why I left. And the second was my great love for a football team called Glasgow Celtic. I started going to see Celtic when I was a 14-year-old boy. I'd get the boat from Belfast to the Broomielaw in Glasgow. I'd go about twice a month. And it got to the point where I thought, you know . . . it would be cheaper if I just lived in Scotland."

So he moved there in 1971, and stayed for nine years. "I didn't miss more than five Celtic games in the time I was there," he says. He worked for an engineering company, then a cigarette company. "They were both good jobs. The move to Scotland was very good for me. Nice country, nice people."

But he decided to leave. His four brothers and two sisters had all immigrated to the United States. "I was the only one left on the other side of the water, and there was always a lot of calls--'Come on, move over here.' So at last I moved over here."

He started in Washington, D.C. He met a girl there who moved to Phoenix, and he went with her in 1981.

"I absolutely hated it. It was the furthest away as can be from the world an Irishman should be in. Finally, I met other Irish people here, found a lot of Irish connections. It made me feel more at ease. I've been here ever since, and I just . . . I love Phoenix now."

He decided to open the first Irish pub in Arizona, The Dubliner at 40th Street and Thunderbird. "The first real Irish pub, I mean. There were pubs with Irish names, but they weren't Irish. There was no Harp or Guinness when I first opened The Dubliner. I was the first to bring them into Arizona. I persuaded the distributors to put on draught Guinness and Harp."

He had some lean times when he opened Seamus McCaffrey's Irish Pub, on Monroe between Central and First Avenue. The area was pretty bleak, with little going on. "I'd wonder where my lease money was going to come from," he remembers.

Perhaps this is why McCaffrey welcomes the presence of the Bank One Ballpark, in spite of his own experience there. He's glad to see any kind of growth. "I'm delighted with it, especially the ballpark. Arizona Center is great, but the ballpark has really crowned it."

Only the very simplistic could take a black-and-white view of Bank One Ballpark, be either for or against. The same goes for downtown growth in general. The 24-screen AMC movie center is indisputably a good thing; it's as affordable as any other theater, and so it brings people in from the surrounding neighborhoods. The only people I've heard complain about it are the jerks who want the area to be the exclusive territory of people with white collars and soft hands.

But the ballpark is a more complex issue. The taxpayers didn't want it, and it was taken out of their pockets anyway, without a vote. And only a minority (who always think they're the majority) will be able to afford to be regular customers . . . except for those who luck out and get one of the few $1 seats, which will allow them to watch the game from a vantage point so high and far away they might have a better view of passing airplanes that of the action on the field.

And yet the effect it has had on downtown benefits everyone. I haven't been to a game, but I love to walk around downtown on a game night, walk past street vendors and pretend I'm in a real city. The other night, I stopped and bought a hot dog on a street corner. When I wished the vendor a good day, she laughed and said, "It already is a good day.

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