by Eddie Mayrose

I’ve never liked hockey. The puck’s too hard to follow on TV, the fighting is a ridiculous waste of time and playoff games that went into overtime would cut into Baseball Tonight during the first month of the baseball season. It’s ironic, then, that a sport with so little meaning to me would serve as the starting point of one of the greatest friendships of my life.

It was 1980. Tommy Kane and I were each coaching in St. Patrick’s Little League that season, one in which volunteers were scarce. So scarce, actually, that the league had been forced to enlist coaches as umpires. This meant that, after you finished coaching your own game, you had to don the equipment and go behind the dish for the next. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.

On this particularly hot, June Saturday, I had coached the 8 a.m. game and umpired Kane’s  immediately thereafter. Exhausted, I was on my way home when he flagged me down. There was urgency in his voice as he blocked my path.

“Mayrose, you have to do this game for me. I just got tickets to the Islanders game this afternoon!” Now, I was aware that the New York Islanders were on the verge of their first Stanley Cup, but I really didn’t care. However, I was an extremely kind and sensitive young man when I was 18, as evidenced by my response.

“Get bent, fat boy. I don’t care if the Islanders give you skates and let you play. It’s 100 degrees, I’ve been here since 7 a.m. and if I do another game I’ll melt. Forget it.”

Desperate, he played his ace in the hole: “I’ll take you to see Billy Joel.”

“Gimme the mask.”

It was the first of three times we’d see Billy Joel together and the first of many great times in my life upon which I’d look back and see Kane in the middle of the room.

He was the quintessential sports buddy — a fan of all sports who would head out to a game on a moment’s notice. St. John’s-Georgetown in D.C., Cal Ripken at Camden Yards and, of course, his beloved Red Sox in Boston, were all road trips that bring a smile to my face whenever they come to mind. I don’t know how he became a Sawx fan, but he attended more games at Fenway than most Beantowners. It was one of these trips that produced an all-time Kane moment.

A group of us were seated about 30 rows up in the right field bleachers. Kane was returning from the concession stand with a few adult beverages and was making the long climb back to his seat. Clad in a small, vintage 1918 Red Sox hat that looked as if it should have had a propeller on top, he was slowly working his very large frame up the stairs when he caught the attention of a leather-lunged Bostonian a few sections over, who, in typical Cheers fashion, screamed, “NORM!”

The hundreds within earshot broke into laughter and applause while Kane never missed a beat. He put down his beer, took off his cap and bowed to the throng, prompting a standing ovation. It was his greatest talent at work; endearing himself to anyone he met within just a few moments.

Kane was everyone’s favorite golf buddy, his annual Final Four party (which sometimes lasted through Monday’s championship game) was not to be missed, and you couldn’t find a better guy with whom to watch or play a game. While many remember him as a tremendous softball teammate, not many know that he was a starter on the first champions of the Donald Grady Men’s Basketball League at St. Pat’s. He couldn’t jump over the Sunday Times, but he got his share of rebounds.

Unlike most of his friends who saw him on weekends, or at events, there were a few of us fortunate enough to work with Tom on the trading floor of the NYSE and see him every day. While tales of those escapades would fill a book, suffice to say that he was as supportive a business colleague as he was in any other facet of his life. That support was a beautiful gift when most of our jobs were phased out and we were forced to find our way in unfamiliar industries. Kane landed  at the Brooklyn Eagle and generously paved the way for me to do the same. Then, when I left Wall Street for good last year to become the alumni director at our alma mater, Xaverian High School, he was more excited than I was.

“You’d better get a nice, comfortable chair for me, Mayrose,  because I’m going to be in your office all the time.”

Tommy’s cancer was diagnosed shortly after I started and he never did make it to my office. Throughout his courageous battle, I’d occasionally look at that chair and be reminded of how much I missed him. Now, however, it makes me remember a wonderful friend and the good fortune that was mine to know him. The grief of his passing will never really go away, but it will always pale next to the smile that comes to my face when I remember him.

Be well, Kane. Pitchers and catchers next Thursday.

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