As a young kid growing up in rural Ireland in the late 70s the Pope didn’t mean much to me; we prayed for him every Sunday at Mass and he was the old guy in the white suit talking Italian on the TV. That changed for me, unknowingly, on October 16th 1978 when Karol Józef Wojtyła became Pope John Paul II.
Shortly after becoming Pope, it was announced he was coming to Ireland and there was a papal frenzy. My Uncle Patsy and Aunt Patricia had convinced my mom to let me go see him in Dublin.
Going to stay with my aunt and uncle in Dublin was a big deal at any time, but this was bigger. I remember watching on TV as the plane landed,he descended the steps,for down on his hands and knees and kissed the ground.
The next day we traveled by train to the Phoenix Park. (Dublin`s Central Park). There were over a million people there. That’s not bad when you consider there were just 4 million people in the country at the time!
We had a picnic and I remember I took a nap during the homily. Later that night we stood at the side of the road just to watch his motorcade drive by.
He followed up his mass In Dublin with a Mass in Galway for the youth of Ireland. That’s where he famously said in English”Young People of Ireland,I Love You!” That always resonated with me and I felt like this guy was taking to me.
So fast forward to the early 2000s and here I am in NYC, it’s about a year before Foleys. I was introduced to a baseball scout, Tom “T-bone,” Giordano. We became fast friends and over one of our many conversations, he tells me his story of meeting JPII. He received a papal blessing for me that proudly hangs at Foleys. He also told me he has baseballs signed by both JPII and Pope Benedict.
Knowing my affinity for John Paul II — and how much I would obviously love to add him to my collection, Bone would bust my chops about it. He even sent me a pic of the balls to tease me.
Sadly, Bone left us too soon on Valentines Day. I do miss him. I miss talking baseball with him and joking around with him.
I was honored when the family allowed me to host a memorial for Bone at Foleys. I was floored and, to be honest, still somewhat in shock when Bones daughter Gail presented me with not only a ball signed by now Saint John Paul, but also a papal coin and a plaque presented to Bone by the Italian Baseball Federation. All of which is proudly displayed at Foleys.
And now I can now say I have a ball signed by an actual saint and almost 4000 signed by sinners!
RIP Tom”TBone” Giordano