September 4, 2014

McGreevy's 3rd Base Saloon in Boston

McGreevy's 3rd Base Saloon sign

photo by: Echo9er, Flickr

McGreevy’s not only claims to be America’s first sports bar, it’s also the birthplace of the Red Sox Royal Rooters club, and the home of Boston’s famous Celtic punk-rock band, the Dropkick Murphys.

With 7 major sports championships since 2004, and something of a reputation for drinking, Boston is the perfect place to start our tour of historic sports bars (as much as this Cleveland fan hates to admit it). And when you think historic sports bars in Boston, you think one place: McGreevy’s.

Ok, let’s forget that McGreevy’s technically closed with Prohibition in 1920 and didn’t reopen until 2008. Given the rest of its history, that little tidbit is pretty much irrelevant.

The spot that doubles as an Irish pub (what else?) originally opened in 1894, and claims to be not only America’s first-ever sports bar, but also its first baseball museum. Historic photos and memorabilia donated by players like Cy Young and Babe Ruth littered nearly every inch of the establishment. Even the light fixtures were constructed of the bats of Red Sox greats (and probably not-so greats).

The original proprietor was Michael McGreevy, but he went by the name of ‘Nuf Ced’ -- his go-to slogan for declaring an end to any and all sports-related arguments. His establishment, originally named McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon, is regarded as the birthplace of the Royal Rooters, the original fan club for Boston’s Major League baseball team. And of course, ‘Nuf Ced’ was the Rooters’ founding father.

McGreevy's 3rd Base Saloon original interior

photo by: Boston Public Library

Then, as now, McGreevy’s was chock full of incredible Boston sports memorabilia, including gifts from Babe Ruth and Cy Young.

During the first part of the 20th century, many a day was spent within the friendly confines of McGreevy’s singing the team’s fight song, “Tessie” -- a song rewritten in 2004 by Boston’s favorite Celtic punk rock band, the Dropkick Murphys, to include McGreevy’s name.

But ole’ McGreevy wasn’t the only character in his bar. Other regulars, beyond the local ballplayers, included none other than “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, who was not only the mayor of Boston, but the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy and a one-time Royal Rooters president.

And like any bar, McGreevy’s had its seedy characters as well. Undoubtedly one of the most famous was John “Sport” Sullivan, one of the ringleaders of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox Scandal that fixed the World Series and led to the banning of eight players from the game of baseball, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (see "Field of Dreams" with Kevin Costner). Who knows, ‘Sport’ may have hatched the idea over a pint in the corner of the 3rd Base Saloon.

Then, in 2008, after 88 years of absence, McGreevy’s was finally back. Though ‘Nuf Ced’ was long gone, the new proprietors -- baseball historian Peter Nash and the Droplick Murphys lead singer Ken Casey -- did the old man proud.

The saloon is once again littered with incredible baseball paraphernalia from wall to wall, including McGreevy’s originals and other artifacts donated by the Boston Public Library. There are even recreations of the baseball bat light fixtures, built from bat donations by former Red Sox pitcher and McGreevy’s regular Jonathan Papelbon.

McGreevy's 3rd Base Saloon original exterior

photo by: Boston Public Library

The original McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon also hosted characters like Boston Mayor “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and Joseph “Sport” Sullivan, who helped to fix the 1919 World Series.

McGreevy’s is conveniently located a few blocks, or just ‘1200 steps,’ from the Red Sox’ home at Fenway Park. So if you’re ever in town for a game, pull up a stool, order a pint of Guinness, and have a shot of history.

Location: 911 Boylston St., Boston, MA

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily (like a real bar should be)

You’re Having: A pint of Guinness, a shot of Irish whiskey, and a shepherd's pie

Best Yelp Review: "Big screen TV's to watch sports, and most importantly... hot bartenders that are actually cool to talk to."

Additional Fun Fact: Co-owner Peter Nash is Prime Minister Pete Nice from the 1980s hip-hop group 3rd Bass.

David Weible is the content specialist at the National Trust, previously with Preservation and Outside magazines. His interest in historic preservation was inspired by the ‘20s-era architecture, streetcar neighborhoods, and bars of his hometown of Cleveland.

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