Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Faa

Ed Ford, the longtime superintendent of recreation in Jersey City known throughout Hudson County simply as the Faa, died Tuesday. He was 65. The Star-Ledger's Steve Politi measures the Faa's legacy:
He was, officially, superintendent of recreation in Jersey City and a longtime baseball scout, but stopping there would be like calling P.T. Barnum a man who worked in a tent. The Faa was the ultimate Jersey City character, a golf-cart-driving, Buddha-shaped needler who would wear a Hudson Catholic T-shirt to a St. Peter’s Prep practice just to bust the coach’s chops.

He was a muck-raking columnist for the Jersey Journal, setting the agenda in the Hudson County sports scene for three decades — and always referring to himself in the third person. “Just another football game?” he once wrote the week of a big game. “The Faa thinks not!”

He was the kind of guy who had friends in high places and low places, from janitors to pro scouts to legends. Dean Smith, the Hall of Fame basketball coach at North Carolina, became close to the Faa when he came to Jersey City to recruit high school star Mike O’Koren. “Let me ask you a question,” Smith once asked the Faa. “Is everyone in Jersey City like you?”
But this, above anything else, is how the Faa should be remembered: He helped people. They were usually inner-city high school baseball players with problems at home, kids who had nowhere else to turn or needed a second chance from someone who’d be tough on them when they needed it.
I never met the Faa. I only occassionally brushed up against his legend. I briefly worked at the "Jersey Journal," but the Faa submitted his columns, if I remember correctly, over the phone, probably from his cluttered trailer in Caven Point, just on the marsh side of the Liberty Science Center. He was like that, a character straight out of a Joseph Mitchell story.

Around Hudson County, stories of the Faa's exploits were as common as political indictments and potholes. There was the time the Faa tossed a hectoring nun out of a gym, back when he was still refereeing basketball games for Jersey City. He also, I learned recently, once threw out Bobby Hurley's wife from a St. Anthony's game. When she told him he couldn't throw her out because her baby son--Danny--was with her, the Faa threw Danny out too.

My favorite Faa story occurred, I believe, in the summer of my sophomore and junior years of high school. A classmate lived across the street from the Faa in downtown Jersey City. Because my friend was a talented baseball player, he and the Faa forged a pretty close relationship. And by relationship, I mean the Faa would drag my friend to the batting cage or ball field at all hours. He would wrap on my friend's bedroom window and holler, "Grab your stuff." My friend came to expect his visits. One morning, the Faa came knocking early, a little after sunrise. The Faa asked my friend to open the trunk of his car. Inside was the Stanley Cup, just another morning in the Faa's Jersey City.

(Photo: Ed Ford in his trailer at Caven Point, June 2, 2007, by Mia Song, The Star-Ledger)

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