There are baseball fans, and then there are baseball fans who take it to another level. 

Shaun Clancy owned one of New York City's most popular sports bars, Foley's, in the heart of Manhattan, for over 16 years. The Irish pub was filled to the brim with baseball memorabilia of all sorts, and was a way station for some of baseball's biggest names who considered it a home away from home. It wasn't unusual to see a late-night crowd including the likes of Joe Maddon, Kevin Cash, Bobby Cox, David Wright, Bryce Harper and Brian Cashman.

"Anybody who was anybody would stop by," said Clancy, who bought a condo in Dunedin in 2019 and now lives in Palm Harbor.

The 53-year-old Clancy, who grew up in Ireland (80 miles outside of Dublin) and came to the United States when he was 21, became fascinated with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. 

"I am a fan of the history of baseball and would go to Cooperstown," said Clancy, who closed Foley's during the COVID crisis and permanently moved to Florida in 2020. "The more I went I'd see names like Kelly, Duffy, McGraw — all these Irish names whose history was tied to the game."

Indeed, in the early days of professional baseball, Irish ballplayers were quite common. After one of his visits to Cooperstown, Clancy came up with the concept of the Irish Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Hall was launched in 2008 with the idea that not just big — and lesser known — players would be elected, but also people associated with the game, one way or another. That first year they inducted Connie Mack, Tug McGraw, Mark McGwire, John Flaherty, and Sean Casey, while also including actor Kevin Costner, baseball writer Red Foley (yes, the pub was named after him), and New York Mets groundskeeper Pete Flynn. In 2009 among those selected were Steve Garvey, Walter O'Malley and Vin Scully.

Clancy admits that he didn't take the Hall that seriously until he saw the reactions of many of the inductees. One in particular really got to him. In 2010, Tim McCarver was one of several inductees. At a ceremony in his honor that year, the former catcher and TV broadcaster who died this past February was overcome with emotion.

"Tim McCarver just started crying and saying how his grandfather would be the happiest person in the world to know that he got this recognition," said Clancy. "That really changed how I looked at the Hall."

The Irish Hall, which is now managed by the Irish American Baseball Society, selected inductees through 2019, but went on hiatus during COVID. 

But this summer, Clancy excitedly declares, "we are re-launching the Hall."

The re-launching includes three new inductees this year, Orioles hurler Jim Palmer, manager Jim Leyland, and umpire John McSherry, who tragically died on the field at the start of a game in Cincinnati in 1996. The three will each be honored at Irish nights in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New York City, respectively. 

While the Hall does not have a permanent site, Clancy asserts with his Irish accent, "We haven't given up hope."

Clancy added that a "long-term goal is to have an Irish team in the World Baseball Classic."

And Clancy has not given up hope that he'll someday find a permanent home for his expansive memorabilia collection, presently in storage in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Clancy is busy with his new job in Clearwater. After moving to Florida for the long haul, Clancy was determined to stay out of the bar business, which he was in for over 30 years. He initially got a job at Publix and then in June 2022 he was hired as a cook for the Homeless Empowerment Program. In December he was promoted to Food Services Manager.

The nonprofit, which serves homeless and low-income families, as well as veterans in need, is on a sprawling 8-acre campus. Among its services are housing, food, clothing and various support programs. 

"It's really rewarding working here," said Clancy, whose girlfriend is Tampa Bay Times sportswriter Kristie Ackert. "It's a great organization that helps so many people.”