No better baseball clubhouse existed during this decade than the one you’d find on East Eleventh Street in Manhattan, just west of Broadway. That was the physical location of Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, where Jay Goldberg — owner, manager, Wright-level captain — steered his ship to nothing but winning records.
We have been conditioned to dismiss or at least seriously question the value of clubhouse presence, clubhouse chemistry, being great in the clubhouse, whatever you want to call those analytically elusive human being intangibles. If you’d ever spent a few minutes in this Clubhouse, you’d put an extremely high value on it.
Jay Goldberg personified Menschiness Above Replacement. Still does, even as he’s closed the brick-and-mortar iteration of the Clubhouse on Eleventh, which is a shame for New York baseball fans of all stripe. Bergino was a seamhead’s DMZ. I sat inside its four walls with fans of every club and it housed us comfortably and cordially. I shared bonhomie with Mets fans, found common ground with Yankees fans, strolled uptown (so to speak) with Giants preservationists and detected echoes of Ebbets. There was something for everybody, even out-of-towners. When the Astros were at the low point of their teardown, losing a hundred-plus games year after year, I was charmed that in the Bergino restroom, there was a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer graced with their logo. Like the Houston franchise over the life of the Clubhouse, it gained a measure of dignity the way it hung in there.
Bergino wasn’t a memorabilia shop. It wasn’t a gallery or a museum. It wasn’t a boutique. It had elements of all those things, yet it was its own thing. It was a Toots Shor’s for the Twenty-First Century, minus the cigar smoke, the Scotch & sodas and the proprietor calling you a crumb-bum . Not Jay’s style. He was gracious and giving, no more so than those nights he tranformed the Clubhouse into a salon, inviting baseball writers to have a seat next to him and discuss their work for an intensely interested audience. I had the honor of sitting in that chair a few times and took just as much pleasure being a face in the crowd while somebody else spoke. I had no idea such an arena existed for baseball books and authors before I stumbled into it at Bergino and I couldn’t believe somebody else hadn’t thought to create one once I got used to the idea that this was real and this was spectacular.
Now I have to get used to the idea that Jay has moved on to other ventures and adventures. The Bergino brand continues online , and you should check out the very fine goods under its virtual awning. Also, Jay would also love to hear from you if you’d like to be part of a passion project he’s pursuing, “Remember Your First Baseball Game? ” If you do remember and wish to share, you should get in touch with Jay (Jay@FirstGameProject.com). As I learned when I’d inevitably linger at the Clubhouse after his events wound down, he’s an excellent listener.
When introducing an evening’s program, Jay would greet us with a simple “welcome home.” If you were a baseball fan at Bergino, you got it immediately.