Should fans still hope for McCuddy’s to make a return?
By Donna Vickroy email@example.com December 2, 2011 10:50PM
A photo of McCuddy’s Tavern from the collection of Sheri Senese. The tavern was opened shortly before Comiskey Park opened in 1910 and was torn down in 1989 to make way for U.S. Cellular Field. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 5, 2012 8:15AM
They say time heals all hurts but for Sheri Senese, the recent revelation that taxpayers paid for the swanky new bar across the street from U.S. Cellular Field has reopened old wounds.
Senese is the daughter of “Pudi” Senese, the last owner of McCuddy’s Tavern near the old Comiskey Park. The tavern was torn down in 1989 to make room for U.S. Cellular Field.
The Oak Lawn grandmother and her family maintain that the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority promised in a handshake deal to rebuild their beloved tavern within three years of the new park’s opening. Yet, 22 years and a lost lawsuit have proved otherwise.
“We were the oldest sports bar in the city,” Senese said. “And we were a sports bar in the true sense of the word. We were a part of the neighborhood.”
Senese’s great-grandfather John McCuddy opened the tavern at 245 W. 35th St. shortly before Charles Comiskey finished building his ballpark in 1910.
Players, fans and the city’s movers and shakers all made it their watering hole. The place would get so crowded after ballgames that police on horseback would come in to clear patrons out, Senese said.
Babe Ruth was known to toss back a few beers between games and, legend has it, sometimes even innings. And every Sunday, players came to dinner.
Though her mom passed away six years ago and her dad is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, Senese clings to a thread of hope that some day the tavern that was once synonymous with White Sox baseball will rise again.
“Look at all this stuff,” Senese said, sifting through memorabilia and piles of old photographs. “What is to become of it all? It should be hanging inside McCuddy’s.”
The collection includes the giant baseball bat that Babe Ruth had made for her great grandmother in 1927. Toward the end of their run in 1989, some customers began to question its authenticity. So Pudi asked Ruth’s daughter to vouch for it. While on a visit to the tavern just before it closed, Dorothy Ruth announced to the customers that she remembered when her dad ordered the bat, which was to be gifted to the McCuddys.
Senese also has the 100-year-old White Sox bat boy uniform that her great uncle John wore. There’s Babe Ruth’s beer pail, plus decades-old scorecards. And there are dozens of photographs, some of which were on display at McCuddy’s before the demolition and others of which are part of her personal collection.
The Smithsonian contacted Pudi shortly after the tavern was torn down. The national museum was interested in displaying the items but, Senese said, her mother was certain they’d need the memorabilia for the new tavern.
“She went to her grave hoping McCuddy’s would reopen,” Senese said.
Senese’s daughter Gabrielle Hawkinson said her grandmother was the kind of person who believed in promises.
“She took you for your word,” Hawkinson said. “When (the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority) didn’t follow through on their promise, she was heartbroken. She was completely shocked. Her whole life was the White Sox.”
Now, Senese wrestles with what to do. Should she maintain hope or donate the old McCuddy’s sign and the other items to a museum?
“There’s so much history here,” she said. The memorabilia reflects the history of Chicago’s South Side, of its factories and blue-collar workers, of its struggles and aspirations and of its love for baseball.
“That’s all gone now, they’ve wiped it all out,” she said. “It’s like the genocide of the flavor of the neighborhood.”
Senese said she believes the sports authority doesn’t want any private or outside vendors setting up shop near the park. They want to control it and reap the financial rewards, she said.
She can’t help but wonder what the fans think.
Are they happy with a pricey, swanky bar to call their own, especially now that they know they footed the bill for it?
Or would they like to see a revival of the way things were? Would they like to see McCuddy’s Tavern rise again?