For 20 years, Dean and Julie Clayland of northern California have been coming to Scottsdale to watch the San Francisco Giants during spring training.
An equally important tradition for the couple and their 12-year-old son, Austin, is eating dinner at their favorite restaurant — the Pink Pony Steakhouse and Saloon.
But news that longtime owner Gwen Briley has put the landmark restaurant on the market has left a bittersweet taste in their mouth. They said they hope the new owner will retain the familiar atmosphere of prime baseball memorabilia festooning its walls crowded with color pencil caricatures of baseball legends and regulars.
“It’s the talk of the town,” said Dean Clayland of the restaurant being for sale. “My wife’s mother heard about it in the news in San Francisco. We heard that it was up for sale when we went in there to eat. We’ve been going into the Pink Pony forever. It’s tradition.”
Baseball greats such as Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio visited the Pink Pony, as well as Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood on their wedding night after getting hitched at the nearby Valley Ho, according to past news reports.
The restaurant’s walls bear the jerseys of the likes of Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins, Reggie Jackson, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, and the late former California Angels owner Gene Autry.
Jenkins, who lives in Anthem, told the Tribune on Monday that he goes into the Pink Pony about twice a month to order ribs or a good steak. Jenkins said he was the first player to give late owner Charie Briley a jersey — a Cubs jersey from the game he notched his 3,000th strikeout in 1982.
“I just hope the people who buy it respect Charlie’s memory and Gwen Briley’s wishes,” Jenkins said. “If it’s not kept as a semi sports bar, or if they change the decor, it would be nice for the new owner to return the jersey to me — I gave it to Charlie as a memento.”
As lunch diners sat inside the horse-shoe shaped booths on Monday, longtime customer John “Bud” Burnett continued a tradition himself.
Burnett, 77, has been meeting in the restaurant for lunch every Monday with a group of friends for 30 years. Burnett remembers when Giants owner Horace Stoneham used to eat there, and when one of his sons spotted Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and got an autograph.
“The place really hasn’t changed that much over the years,” Burnett said. “It’s a comfortable place to come.”