Who was Ed Moose?
Ed Moose was born in 1929 in Saint Louis, Missouri. He grew up in an Irish Catholic Family in an Irish Catholic Neighborhood. His father lost his bank job as a result of the Depression’s “bank holiday” and turned to making “booze” for a living. Ed’s mother also worked (“like a dog”), his paternal Irish grandmother ran a boarding house that catered to medical students, and Ed sold newspapers. Ed earned two degrees at St. Louis University, including a master’s in psychiatric social work in 1957. He served with the Army Special Forces and worked at clinics for children in St. Louis before he got a job as alumni director for St. Louis University. In the winter of 1961, Ed found himself in San Francisco on his travels for the alumni association.
Ed described his first trip saying, “It was a beautiful, warm, salubrious day. I got off the plane from St. Louis, where it was pure hell, and in San Francisco it was paradise — flowers everywhere.” Soon after, he piled his belongings and long frame into his Volkswagen and headed to California on Route 66.
In San Francisco Ed was working several “do-good” jobs, first for Catholic Charities, then with Mayor Joseph Alioto’s children-and-youth program, the National Urban Coalition and several community organizations.
Sam Deitsch, who Ed knew from his days in St. Louis, came to San Francisco in 1966. He and Ed bought the small bar Pistola’s in North Beach for $25,000 in 1973 and then changed the name to Washington Square Bar & Grill, incorporating the name from the nearby park.
Growing the business was originally a slow affair, but that changed when columnist Herb Caen discovered the restaurant. He nicknamed it “Washbag”, and a regular clientele made it more fashionable. Everybody who was anybody spent time at the Washbag, including politicians, newspaper columnists, TV anchors, and more.
In 1977 Ed and Hal Tunes, another restaurant owner in North Beach, came up with the idea for a penny pitch as a social event to strengthen ties with other Washington Square establishments. Ed turned it into a charitable event for his beloved St. Anthony’s. He expanded the entry list to include local bars, athletic teams, like the Giants, A’s and Warriors, and invited the civic leaders, sports figures, and other stars who frequented the Washbag. They enthusiastically competed and bid on auction items, with all proceeds going to St. Anthony’s.
The first Penny Pitch, on Washington’s Birthday of 1977, drew huge crowds to watch a lively competition, eventually won by now retired police inspector Chris Sullivan. In the intervening years, the event has moved to Memorial Day and transferred across the street from the Washbag to Ed’s new restaurant, Moose’s, later Joey & Eddy’s, and back again. Over 45 years, it has raised roughly $1 million for St. Anthony’s.
Later in his life, Ed auctioned off all the memorabilia in his restaurant. When asked why, Ed said “There are a lot of hungry people down in the Tenderloin. They are feeding 2,400 people a day at St. Anthony’s. They take no days off and the line gets no shorter. That takes a lot of money to keep going, and they are totally dependent on who walks in off the street with a check in hand.”
Ed Moose was an incredibly generous and welcoming person. We are incredibly grateful for all he did for St. Anthony’s throughout his lifetime. Ed died in 2010 but we are proud to continue his legacy and honored to name this trophy after him.
Please come out on Friday, June 3 and compete for the Ed Moose Memorial Trophy. We know Ed would be proud to see we’re still pitching pennies 50 years later.