Although he died in December 2002, Charlie Briley is very much alive in the hearts and minds of his friends and family and in the Old Town Scottsdale restaurant he made legendary.
The Pink Pony, a steakhouse synonymous with spring training and baseball greats who passed through the Valley, was made great by Briley. Some of his closest friends came together at the Pony to remember Briley in celebration of what would have been his 88th birthday three months after his death in March 2003.
At the party, Charlie’s wife Gwen saw to it that his ashes were given to baseball team owners and players to be scattered on 20 baseball fields across the country.
The Pink Pony is being considered for addition to the Scottsdale Historic Registry. It hasn’t changed much over the years — remaining famous for its Western style and baseball-affiliated clientele. Gwen Briley now runs the restaurant with her son Kenneth Brown.
Caricatures of famous players and sports stars that visited the Pony, such as Dizzy Dean and Billy Martin, line the walls. Jerseys of slugger Sammy Sosa and pitcher Fergie Jenkins hang above the booths and tables. The dining room is dark; black booths adorned by small lamps beckon diners to sit and enjoy the history.
Baseball greats, including Martin, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, visited the Pony. Other socialites graced the Pony, including Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood on their wedding night. Sens. Hubert Humphry and Joseph McCarthy and Clark Gable ate at the Pony as well.
An intimate round booth in the restaurant’s southwest corner is known as Gene Autry’s booth, in tribute to the film star and former owner of the Anaheim Angels, who was a great friend of the Pony, Gwen Briley said.
"He’d come in and say, ‘Miss Gwen, would you take my Stetson?’ and I’d take it and put it in the back office," she said.
The Pink Pony moved into the building at 3831 N. Scottsdale Road in 1970; it opened in 1947 at the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Main Street in the former Whitey’s Cafe, according to city historic preservation officer Debbie Abele.
The restaurant was founded by Ping Bell as Ping’s and later sold to Claudia Ogden who renamed it the Pink Pony. She sold it to Charlie Briley for $50,000 in a lease-to-buy option in 1950.
The Pony’s current site was built as a new Sprouse-Reitz variety store in 1954.
The Scottsdale Historic Preservation Commission is making the case to add the the Pink Pony, along with the Sugar Bowl and the Weirich-Westernaire Building (also known as the Simonson Building), to the city’s historic register.
What: Informational open house on three historic buildings nominated for Scottsdale Historic Register
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday
Where: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission Church, 3821 N. Brown Ave., Scottsdale
Information: Call (480) 312-2523