“WE INTERRUPT THIS FAMILY FOR BASEBALL SEASON.”
So reads the quaint sign, decorated with a baseball and bat, hanging by the front door of the Mahon family residence. It says a lot about one of the biggest baseball families in Mattituck, but doesn’t come close to preparing visitors for what is inside.
Enter the front door, walk through a living room, a dining room, a kitchen and then turn left downstairs. While still walking down the stairs, one is already taken aback by items decorating the sports-themed man cave that is appropriately named the Mahon Cave.
The Mahon Cave, Est. 2012, is the recreational refuge for Kevin Mahon, his wife Denise and their four children — Kevin Jr., 17; Ryan, 16; Brady, 13; and Laura, 8.
Taking it all in can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor, who may not know where to look first. The Mahons are all New York Yankees fans, and there is plenty of Yankees mementos to catch your eye, including a large Yankees rug with interlocking “NY”s.
But baseball and the Yankees aren’t the only sports and teams represented. Memorabilia from football, basketball, hockey, boxing and even darts is on display in what could pass for a sports museum.
“It’s a collector’s cave,” said Kevin Sr., whose Facebook cover photo is the No. 8, circled in Yankees pinstripes in honor of the late Yogi Berra.
The walls are adorned with items such as autographed photos, baseballs, bats, football helmets, boxing gloves, framed newspaper pages and a framed Washington Capitals jersey. One can even find a framed copy of a scouting report on former Yankees captain Derek Jeter. At the base of a 60-inch television are encased signed hockey pucks. On top of that TV, one of two in the room, is a goal light, similar to the ones used to signify goals in NHL games. And if you’re looking for news, there’s a live sports ticker in the corner.
“This started when the kids couldn’t pick up their toys,” Kevin Sr. said. “This used to just be a big room down here. It was a play room for all the kids. Then one day my wife and I were just like: ‘This is out of control. They don’t pick anything up.’ You couldn’t walk down here. So we gave them a week to clean it up. They didn’t clean it up and it all got black-bagged and we just turned it into a big family room for all of us.”
The Mahon Cave started modestly enough with the acquisition of a baseball signed by former major leaguer Shane Spencer. From there, things grew. “It just kind of got out of hand as you can see,” said Kevin Sr.
“I like it a lot,” Brady said. “I mean, it’s always changing. … There’s always a lot of new stuff coming, so you got to make room for new stuff so that takes a lot of time to find space to put it.”
Kevin Sr. figures the Mahons have met about 80 percent of the athletes who signed their memorabilia. The signatures of many of the biggest names in sports can be found: Mike Tyson, Troy Aikman, Bobby Knight, Bob Gibson, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, and the list goes on.
Among the framed items on the walls is a certificate for receiving 2014 Man Cave of the Year Honorable Mention by ManCaveSite.org.
Behind each item there is a story. Then again, the Mahons don’t have to go beyond their own family for great stories. Some of them revolve around Kevin Sr.’s late grandfather, Tom Mahon, who was a centerfielder in the Yankees’ minor league system for two years.
Kevin Sr. said his grandfather credited baseball with saving his life. Literally.
This is how the family history goes: Tom Mahon was in the Marine Corps during World War II, but instead of being shipped into battle after boot camp, a colonel noticing him recalled him being the New York City High School Player of the Year in 1939. That is how Tom Mahon was placed on the Marine’s intra-service baseball team. He was sent to Hawaii.
Only three of the 24 members of his platoon survived the Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific.
During his time in Hawaii, Tom Mahon played for a brief spell with Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who wanted to leave Hawaii to fight the Japanese. Williams, as the family lore goes, asked Mahon to keep his uniform in case he changed his mind about leaving Hawaii. When it became apparent that Williams wasn’t returning to Hawaii, Mahon shipped the uniform to his wife.
Years later, Tom Mahon’s wife was asked what became of Williams’ uniform.
“Oh God, what did I do with it?” she was quoted as telling a family member. “I probably cut it up into rags and used it to wax the car.”
Baseball is still very much a part of the Mahon family. Kevin Sr. played for Smithtown West High School and SUNY/Delhi. His two oldest sons are on the Mattituck High School varsity team and Brady plays for the Mattituck middle school team. Laura is a budding gymnast.
The six Mahons gathered in the man cave Sunday afternoon. It was MLB’s Opening Day, and they watched their beloved Yankees christen the new season. “That’s what’s good about Opening Day,” Kevin Sr. said. “We’re all great today.”
It turned out not to be a great day for the Yankees, though. They lost, 7-3, to the Tampa Bay Rays.
They may not have liked the result, but at least the Mahons were comfortable.
“It’s the best, I’m not going to lie,” Kevin Sr. said. “It’s just so comfortable. We see people out there in the stands freezing. We’re here, and we’re just having a good time.”