All-Star vendor steals fans' hearts
As a teen, Bobby Faloon hitched rides to work with the likes of Roberto Clemente.
“He'd make sure I had a ride every day across the Bloomfield Bridge,” recalled Faloon, 59, of Dormont, who started vending at Pirates games in the 1960s at Forbes Field. “He'd give me advice, you know? Be a good kid and all that, stay in school, stay out of trouble.
“I listened. Back then, it wasn't easy. There were a lot of guys running around in the streets, and I came from a rough neighborhood. But I always remembered what those guys — Clemente, Ernie Banks, Willie Stargell — what they told me.
“They were good to me. They always took care of me.”
Aramark, the food and beverage contractor at PNC Park and 10 other Major League Baseball parks, is taking care of him.
Faloon is in New York City this week to work at baseball's annual All-Star game festivities at Citi Field, home of the Mets. Aramark selected him as one of 11 All-Star vendors. With 46 years of service, he has the longest tenure.
Faloon will work at the Home Run Derby on Monday and the All-Star game on Tuesday. While in New York, Faloon and other All-Star vendors will visit underprivileged kids at the Queens Community House in Flushing.
Faloon was a kid when he started his career of selling refreshments to fans.
“Back then, you had to be 13,” he said. “I applied when I was 11, but they said I had to wait. So I sold newspapers outside Forbes until I was old enough.”
Now beer is more expensive, and access to players is not what it used to be, Faloon said, noting that the likes of Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, while “great guys,” don't pull over and offer him rides to the park.
What hasn't changed is Faloon, lugging a 25-pound tray of beer up and down the aisles along the first base line, kneeling down to pop open a can when a fan raises a finger.
“Bob's one of the greatest,” said Pirates fan Daniel Congdon, 54, of McKees Rocks. “He's in shape, he's really pleasant with the customers, and he's an honest guy. He's the best in the business.”
Paul Hensler, 52, of Mt. Lebanon said he lets other beer vendors pass by.
“I've known Bob a lot of years,” Hensler said in his seats behind the visitor's dugout. “He's personable, friendly. … I'll wait for him just so we can talk a little.”
When Faloon gets to talking, he has stories.
He recalls a series in the '60s against the Dodgers when Don Drysdale pitched one game and fellow Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax took the hill for the next.
“ ‘Don't leave,' they say, 'cause when I start talking I start remembering,” Faloon said of his regular customers. “I remember everything from back then, and then I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday.”
With his seniority and vendor ID 001, Faloon gets first pick of what he sells (always Miller Lite) and where (always along the first base line, lower level).
When he started, it wasn't so easy, he said.
“They'd give me Coke when it was 10 degrees and hot chocolate when it was 80. That's how seniority works,” he said. “But I could still sell it. Whatever they gave me, I sold it.”
He believes the first rule to being a good vendor is to hustle.
“That's No. 1,” he said, pausing between innings to drink a bottle of water as sweat drips off his nose. “I've always been able to hustle, no matter what. And you have to have a strong voice, good legs and a good personality.”
In the third inning of a game the Pirates would win in 11 against the Mets, Faloon stood near the right field corner and scanned the faces in another standing-room only crowd. The Bucs' winning ways have started a buzz at the ballpark, he said, an electricity that reminds him of better days in the '70s, when the Pirates last won the World Series.
“Lot of families tonight,” he said. “I can't wait to get to the ballpark when it's like this.”
He paused. “I think this year's going to be different. I think they're going to hold up this time. They're not going to fold like the last couple years.”
He picked up his tray of beers and resumed walking up and down the aisles, shouting into the warm night: “Miller Lite, here — heeeey, Miller Lite.”
Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.