When F.X. McRory’s Steak, Chop and Oyster House dropped anchor in Pioneer Square back in the autumn of 1977, a half-dozen oysters went for less than two bucks and the highest-paid Sounder’s salary was $30,000.
Obviously much has changed in the near 40 years since. Soon Mick McHugh will open a new F.X. McRory’s at a nearby but still undisclosed location. Yet, for many sports fans from both Seattle and traveling from afar to our fair city, McHugh’s June 11 last call will unquestionably mark the end of an era.
With its closing come a rush of memories from four decades, of drinks ordered, sipped and spilled. Of lunchtime or happy hour gatherings and a crush of people before and after events at the neighboring stadia.
At one time, the McRory’s brass doors swung open to the Kingdome when that concrete mausoleum came to life about 170 nights per year as home to the Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders and Sonics. Beyond being a 350-seat, 12,000-square-foot cash register, it became a landmark. Countless other bars and restaurants came and closed during the F.X. run, and it’s fair to say more gameday pints were slurped there than any other joint in town.
For Sounders Nation, McRory’s and the entire McKesson and Robbins Building that houses it holds a special place in history. The NASL era Sounders were the first team to take residency in the Kingdome, and in 1979 their offices moved from the nearby Metropole Building into the fourth floor, above F.X. Before long, the Sonics took occupancy on the second floor.
When Sounders Hit the Bar
Alan Hudson, the legendary Sounders captain and midfield maestro, shared his own F.X. story.
“It was the first bar downtown I frequented with Jimmy Gabriel, Harry Redknapp, Bobby Howe and John Anderson (the trainer),” writes Hudson. “We were in the old office above and on leaving, waiting for the elevator, Harry was complaining about (Anderson) never buying a drink.”
Sure enough, on this occasion Anderson arrived after the others had ordered. “So Harry turned to John and said… ‘John, why haven’t you ever bought a bloody drink?’ John coolly said, ’Harry, you never asked me.’
“Me, Jimmy, Bobby howled. Harry was gobsmacked. Great answer, because we all know that those in the USA are not as quick to the bar as us English.
Hudson admits he’s seen a fair share of bars around the world, but McRory’s stands out. “I went many a time after a match,” he shared. “It was obviously the first time I’d seen a ladder behind the bar.” It was also where Hudson discovered–amongst all the hundreds of bourbons and special Scotches–his taste for that Canadian blended whisky, Crown Royal.
On to the Next Round
Soon after, Don Greiert succeeded Anderson as the Sounders trainer. Greiert has his own F.X. stories for he once supervised the oyster bar.
“The first St. Patrick’s Day I remember (owners) Mick (McHugh) and Tim (Firnstahl) having us start the day before by moving out all the tables from the bar for more room,” said Greiert. “After the last partygoer was cleared (on St. Paddy’s Day), Mick and Tim let us stay for a closed-door, private celebration until 5 in the morning.”
Dave Schumacher, once the club’s community relations director, recalls Bobby Howe conducting his Captain Bluff drinking game to wide-eyed new staff. Inevitably, the naïve newcomers would be left staggering.
“It was where everybody went, because we were right there, up on the fourth floor” said Schumacher. “You could come down the back elevator and in through the back door. Bobby and Alan (Hinton) were always there.”
McHugh asked Hinton to serve as a guest panelist (along with Bill the Beerman and Ivar Haglund) at an ale and beer tasting event.
Such regulars were Sounders staff that two are depicted in LeRoy Neiman’s painting of the iconic whisky bar. After Kingdome matches, usually the first stop for players was the small and rather Spartan stadium lounge. Subsequent rounds, however, came down the street at McRory’s.
F.X. McRory’s is such an institution that it often becomes a rallying point for out-of-towners. Among the first traveling fans to lay siege to the place were Vancouver Whitecaps supporters in the Eighties. They didn’t seem to mind the lesser buzz factor of American brews as they chanted Ooogie, Oogie, Oogie into the night.
Memories of Latter Days
After Sigi Schmid was named coach in December 2008, he joined fans, friends and family to celebrate that first night in Seattle at McRory’s. One not-so-pleasant memory comes from a pre-dawn December 2010 assembly of those associated with the 2022 World Cup bid, which promised matches in Seattle should the U.S. prevail with FIFA. Alas, the news was deflating. But who knows, maybe the ultimate ending will have a twist.
In 2014, Sounders FC located its offices virtually across Occidental Avenue from F.X. Also that year, alumni from the original Sounders converged on McRory’s to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Seattle’s first pro soccer club. They found that the place had aged gracefully.
Three iterations of Sounders fans and players, coaches and staff have leaned on the 96-foot marble bar. And it’s reasonable to assume that wherever Mick moves that bar, they will follow.
A staple of many a preseason camp is goal-setting. It taps into the competitive nature of athletes and coaches, to aspire and work toward targets, both for the individuals and the collective, the team.
They must be specific and measurable; within reason, but also just out of reach. To reach these goals will require more than before. Goal-setting asks us to give it everything we’ve got, and then some.
Entering a ninth season in MLS, Sounders FC is well into its adolescence. Whereas the formative years were filled with modest accomplishments – winning season series, making the playoffs – those benchmarks are now merely base camps for assault on the summit.
When he takes his place on the terra firma of BMO Field on Saturday night, the mission of Jordan Morris is to do whatever it takes for the Sounders to bring home the Anschutz Trophy.
Win the ball. Hold the ball. Connect. Cover and mark bigs on Reds set plays. Set-up or score a goal, all the better. But just win.
It would be Seattle’s first such championship in the top flight of North American soccer, and it would obviously hold extra special meaning to a Mercer Islander who grew up watching the boys in Rave. And given Puget Sound’s proclivity for producing top-class players, it would be a fantasy come true for fans, to see a homegrown lad lift MLS Cup.
If set to a soundtrack, the game is more suited to symphony than garage band. Fortunes can change quickly in soccer, but usually following a long, drawn-out build-up. Yet there are the exceptions, when the drumbeat does double-time and the cymbals crash repeatedly.
So it was on Sunday. Just when it was seeming Dallas and Seattle were destined to finish the first leg of their series in a scoreless stalemate, the Sounders came unleashed, attacking in fury and soon finding themselves as top dog in a pairing with the top side in MLS this season.
Interim (Really? Still?) coach Brian Schmetzer pondered in his postgame presser whether he’d ever witnessed anything quite like it, the succession of blows by Valdez, Lodeiro and, again, Lodeiro during an 8-minute span early in the second half.
Down through the years, Seattle certainly can claim its share of goal-scoring central defenders. Beginning with David Gillett driving home a corner kick in ’74 and renewed through Chad Marshall’s flick to the far corner versus Chicago, the big backline boys have often proven the difference between victory and defeat, at both ends of the pitch.
This year alone, three of Marshall’s four goals have translated to five additional points in an extremely tight playoff race. Time will tell the true importance of that header, although it wasn’t Marshall’s first big score. There was the late winner vs. Philly in ’14 and the added time strike at Dallas in the playoffs a year ago.
Whether in the opponent’s box or his own, Marshall’s works are textbook, efficient, clinical in application. As for center back goals, it’s doubtful he will ever deliver with the panache of Djimi Traore’s long-distance, aggregate equalizer against Tigres or Patrick Ianni’s sidewinder extraordinaire vs. Sporting KC.
Today it would be absurd, but once upon a time – actually, make it twice – the road to the Olympic Games ran through Seattle. Lured here under some extraordinary circumstances, U.S. Soccer sent its best team of the day to be road tested on a relatively narrow patch of plastic against some locals with much to prove.
Prior to both the 1972 and ’84 Summer Games, utilizing sheer will and a discretionary expense account, missionaries from the local footballing community convinced federation officials to make Northwest detours, essentially, for the good of the game. All right, so the second visit guarantee involved some wool blends, but more about that in a few paragraphs.
Of course nowadays Seattle would be a logical stop for a national team bound for a major tournament. Big, loud crowds and a beautiful stadium. A generation ago, both city and the sport were pariahs, and perhaps therein was the mutual appeal.
You couldn’t tell the players without a program, and your program was useless unless you arrived at the park early enough to hear the squad announced. That was the first lesson learned upon attending a British football match some 30 years ago. It was a brisk spring evening in Scotland, with dust swirling in a windswept, dilapidated ground of Stirling Albion (don’t ask).
There were no programs and not a lot of spectators either. Although Scottish in heritage this visitor didn’t speak the language. But I’m pretty sure the ol’ man in tweed a few yards away was suggesting I keep an eye on the No. 10. And ain’t that always the case?
Since the height of Pelé’s reign, the No. 10 shirt has been football’s most prized. In theory, it should be issued to a player of quality (at least compared to the rest of the squad). Ideally, it would be worn by an attacking player with a creative, cunning mind to go along with a quiver of skills for surgically dismembering a defense.
Enter Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle’s new No. 10 and most recently of Boca Juniors. Talk about the pressure and expectation of wearing that number, at La Bombonera Lodeiro was tracing the footsteps of both a demigod (Maradona) and a recently retired legend (Riquelme). And Nico handled it with aplomb, settling in soon after his arrival and leading Boca to the domestic double.
As his father tells the story, Walter Schmetzer beckoned Alan Hinton to watch his vaunted Lake City Hawks to watch a player of promise. But it wasn’t his son.
Still, as is often the case when coaches scout young (in this case U18) players, the original target can be eclipsed by another aspirant sharing the field, and that’s how on spring day in 1980 Brian Schmetzer’s long association with Puget Sound professional soccer began.
Over 36 years since, Schmetzer has been associated as a player or coach with virtually every entity where one could draw a paycheck. Of the 500-some players who’ve worn a Seattle or Tacoma shirt over the years, Brian’s probably watched, played beside or coached an overwhelming majority of them.