Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"This is a baseball joint": McCuddy's Tavern, 1910-1988

Photo via Chicago Bar Project
I've written here, here, here and here about old Comiskey Park in Chicago and of my regrets at never having caught a White Sox game there. To that threnody I'll add my misgivings that I never had a beer at McCuddy's, a bar that stood at 247 West 35th Street for nearly eight decades until it was demolished in 1988 during the construction of what is now U.S. Cellular Field. Despite vague promises from the city, the tavern was never rebuilt near the new park.

The demolition made national news. Tipped by a piece at Chicago Bar Project, I dug up an October 12, 1988 New York Times article about the joint's closing:
McCuddy's has been a Chicago institution since John J. McCuddy got a tip from a rich friend and sportsman, Charles Comiskey, who owned Chicago's American League franchise at the turn of the century and long harbored dreams of moving from the old ball park at 39th Street.

John J. McCuddy was one of the few people Mr. Comiskey let in on the dream, and McCuddy's opened its doors in time to serve the construction workers who built Comiskey Park—dubbed the ''baseball palace of the world'' when it opened on July 1, 1910.
From a March 28, 1989 article in the Los Angeles Times:
As the 12-year-old great-great-grandson of the tavern's founder tearfully pulled the lever, a tractor-like high lift from Speedway Wrecking Co. took the first big chunk out of the small saloon across the street from Comiskey Park.
Young Jack Blachley, who used to sell hot dogs in the tavern, was too choked up to talk about it at first and hid his face as he said of the demolition, "It's stupid."
My favorite quote comes from Pat Senese, the bar's owner, in the New York Times article: ''We've been open for every home game ever since. In fact, that's the only time we are open. They have rock concerts here, soccer games, whatever—our doors are shut. This is a baseball joint—always has been, always will be."

Cheers, McCuddy's. Would I have loved to duck in for cold beer or three before a game.

Here's a visit to the bar in 1984:

Photo via Chicagoist

Screen grab via Comiskey Park: There Used to be a Ballpark Right Here

Photo via FlyingSock


Kent Morgan said...

I did get to Comiskey a couple of times, but didn't know about this bar. I was by myself the first time and managed to find a parking spot in a nearby lot. When I got out of my car, the parking attendant said, "CKY Winnipeg." I asked him how he knew about that radio station and he said that he had played for the Aberdeen Pheasants in the Northern League and always remembered how nice the people in Winnipeg had been to black players. Before I walked away, he added that I shouldn't worry about my car as he would watch out for it. A nice memory.

As for bars, I remember a Chicago writer commenting in The Sporting News about Duff's bar in downtown Minneapolis. This was when Twins were still playing in the old Met stadium before they moved downtown to the Metrodome. The writer covered the Cubs for the first half of the season and then switched to the White Sox. His comment was, "Duff's is still the best bar in the majors."

Joe Bonomo said...

That's a great story about the attendant!

I'll have to check out Duff's if it's still around....

Kent Morgan said...

Duff's has been gone for many years. Before it closed it was owned by football star Bob McNamara. Once the Metrodome opened a place called Hubert's that was across the street became very popular. When Target Field opened, Hubert's moved to a larger spot in the basketball arena near the baseball field. Not as popular as it's an area with plenty of bars and restaurants.

One time a friend and I went down to watch the Twins and Indians for a couple of games. We stayed in a hotel on Hennepin Ave. near Duff's so that was our after-game spot. In walks Hawk Harrelson in a light blue leisure suit and soon everyone knew he was there. Trailing behind was Tony Horton. At closing time Hawk was still trying to put the moves on women with no success. But he was a good at least loud talker.

Joe Bonomo said...

She gone!

He can grab some bench!


Kent Morgan said...

A friend and I were back in Minneapolis last week to see the Twins play the Orioles in a make-up game and then the White Sox. My friend Bryan mentioned that it was our 14th baseball trip in 15 summers. We walked by the spot were Duff's used to sit. Most of the action before and after games is near the ball park and close to the club that Prince made famous. We also drove past the new football stadium that opened this week on the land where the Metrodome took up space. I was there the night the Metrodome opened and hated it ever since. During the trip, Bryan asked me if I was ever going to get to Cooperstown. I said not likley, but your piece about your visit got me thinking again.

Joe Bonomo said...

You should if can swing it. I can't believe to took me so long to get there!