Thursday, June 18, 2009

Baseball place No. 60: Bobby Valentine's Sports Gallery Cafe

I’ve been spending time visiting Wisconsin with family creating our own adventures rather than following Josh’s, but now we’re back.

And we’re going all the way back to our three years in Connecticut, the first years out of school, in the working world and in marriage.

I felt at home in Milford when I discovered the Bobby Valentine Sports Gallery Café, which sadly, is gone now.

Josh Pahigian taps the Stamford, Conn. café as spot No. 60 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Josh reports that Bobby V. invented the sandwich wrap one night when a customer ordered a sub and he was out of buns. I’ve never heard that, and Bobby isn’t the type to be modest about creating a food fad.

But I do know that “Bobby V’s” – as we called it every time – was a fun place. I knew it was a glorious hangout the moment I walked in.

We know what the stereotypical sports bar looks like. A couple framed replica jerseys on the wall. A couple posters you can find anywhere. Maybe a football helmet or two.

That wouldn’t be good enough for Bobby V. We’re talking a quality establishment here.

Every inch of wall – and I mean every single inch – was covered with something cool. Framed magazines and programs, pennants and photos were everywhere. You could spend hours just walking around checking everything out.

Then, the bar and table tops were covered in baseball cards from the 1960s and 1970s, all laminated.

I’m not one to frequent bars or restaurants, but Bobby V’s was the place we took every friend or relative who came for a visit, and where we celebrated special occasions, at least the ones where I was allowed to pick where we dined.

My new sister-in-law visited, and with my wife working nights I had to find something in Milford Kris might enjoy, so naturally we went to Bobby V’s, which she appeared to tolerate.

Then we got bold and crazy, and went across the street to Milford Jai Alai, which also sadly is gone. I’d never been to such a place, had little idea how the game went or how people bet on it.

The game seemed kind of like handball, but with players wearing huge baskets called a cesta. And like Ichiro, all the players go by one name.

The night started when all the players walked out and saluted the audience. They all appeared to be smallish men from Latin America and the Philippines – except for one African-American who looked like a linebacker, towering above all others and going by the name of “Fo.” It was a true “One of these things is not like the other” situation.

Not having a clue how this worked, Kris and I picked a player we thought would win, naturally picking Fo, We didn’t make a bet or anything.

So Fo won, we yelled, “This is easy!” and ran to the window to throw a couple bucks down for the next games.

I think we won only once more for the rest of the night, so apparently there was more to the game than picking the biggest, tallest player with the shortest name.

We never went back to Milford Jai Alai, but we certainly went back to Bobby Valentines’ Bobby had restaurants in Texas, too. But I think the only one left is in his hometown of Stamford.


dgwPhotography said...

I loved Bobby V's - when he was in the restaurant, he always made time to sit and chat with everyone...

To make it even sadder, the Jai Alai is now a Lowes...

I always told me wife that it would have made a great place for a minor league ballpark...

Confluence City said...

Your stories always make me regret living here in cow-eyed Cardinals fan land, where every game night is a Saturday in a college football town ... and I hate the home team!

I did some Mets stories when Valentine was at the helm. He was a live wire!