The first stop I made when I arrived in Spokane in 2003 was to find a bar.
Not just any bar. I needed Jack & Dan’s on North Hamilton. And it wasn’t to get a drink. I needed Jack Stockton.
John Stockton’s father passed away last month at 89. I didn’t know him well when I arrived, but by the time I left, a few days later, I felt differently.
Jack was a decades-long bartender and everyone’s friend.
I was on assignment to detail John’s story. Specifically, my editor told me to write “the end-all” on Stockton. I caught a plane to Spokane and set about interviewing his friends, former teammates, teachers, etc. But Jack was the first and best source. John had already told me he wasn’t interested in sitting down for a profile piece. So I had to get my story elsewhere.
Jack didn’t have memorabilia of his son in the tavern, which made sense. It would have embarrassed John. If you go to Jack & Dan’s website, you won’t see John’s awards, but there is a picture of someone named Ed Eschenbacher being named Bartender of the Year.
The website does note that Sports Illustrated rates it the sixth-best sports bar in America.
All I know is it was the friendliest.
For the time I was in John’s hometown, Jack was my go-to guy. He was good on details, not so good on bragging. He put me in touch with others who knew John well. And he volunteered to drive me to all the places his son attended school. I had a rental car, but he insisted we go in his truck.
Jack was always gracious whenever he returned to Salt Lake thereafter, a man proud of his son, but too humble to boast. He raised a fine family in a regular house, in a regular neighborhood. He was secure in himself and his family, but not arrogant; proud but not prideful.
Jack Stockton would be the first to say he wasn’t important. But ask his son. John has said his father was his idol. "Always has been, always will be," John said upon his Hall of Fame induction.
In certain ways, from a distant vantage point, I could say the same.