Story by Shane Monaghan
Video by Lena Blietz
Before the final Cubs game of the season, McNally’s bartender Amanda Stratton said she was ready for the frenzy surrounding the bar’s controversial signage to be over.
“We had to take the phone off the hook for nearly a week because we were receiving so many calls,” Stratton, a manager at the Morgan Park bar, said Wednesday afternoon before the final game of the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the New York Mets. “I am ready for it all to go away.”
McNally’s Irish pub drew the ire of many Cubs fans throughout the team’s postseason run for openly displaying anti-Cubs sentiment.
McNally’s bartender and customers describe their experiences before, during and after Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series.
The bar first put up a sign offering free beer for every St. Louis Cardinals home run the Thursday before Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Reports of the anti-Cubs signage ran in Chicago and nationally. The negative attitude toward the North Side team was not a new development as the South Side White Sox bar has a history of offering discounted drinks in celebration of Cubs’ misfortunes.
Following the media coverage, the bar received enough negative phone calls to make it unplug the phone. Stratton said most of phone calls were to complain and the worst one she personally fielded was a threat to throw a Molotov cocktail through the front window of the bar.
Conversation on the McNally’s Facebook page was also heated as fans gave their opinions about the bar’s attitude on Chicago’s playoff-bound team to the north. The banter, which continued through the NLCS, ranged from lighthearted memes to more antagonistic statements featuring colorful expletives.
Because of the growing animosity, many at the bar were on edge before Game 1 of the Cubs-Cardinals series, according to Stratton.
“I just did not know what to expect,” she said.
Despite worry about the threats, McNally’s management did not call the police, and no incidents occurred during the Cubs’ playoff run, according to Stratton.
McNally’s showed no remorse for rooting against the Cubs. Over the past two weeks, the bar’s main sign displayed messages saying, “Go Sox & Whoever Plays The Cubs,” “Cubs Bandwagon Doesn’t Stop Here,” and “Its Always Been Next Yr -108 Times.”
“It might as well be the Dodgers and Giants playing,” Kevin Gibson, a regular patron of McNally’s, said Wednesday in regards to a Cubs-Mets NLCS. “It doesn’t interest me.”
Gibson appeared in the feature photo accompanying the Chicago Tribune’s report about the free beer. He said many people thought he was one of the bar’s owners and he received multiple unfriendly phone calls.
“‘Hope you choke on your free beer,’-that was the worst one,” he said shaking his head.
The beer was not technically free. Stratton clarified it was paid for by a devoted Cardinals fan who is a friend of the bar’s owner.
Stratton said the bar had a mixture of Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals and Mets fans for games throughout the playoffs.
Not all the White Sox fans rooted against the Cubs, though. One of the bar’s regulars, Jerry Ford, said ahead of Game 4 of the NLDS that no matter what the sign said he would support the Cubs.
“I want there to be an economic windfall for the city,” said Ford, who is first and foremost a White Sox fan.
The mood at the bar was congenial throughout the playoffs as fans watched the game amidst friendly banter. During Game 4 of the NLDS, Stratton, who is a Cardinals fan, passed out the “free” beers to the nearly 40 customers, and played “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang every time the Cardinals scored a run. The Cubs fans in attendance cheered and high-fived for all three of the Cubs’ home runs.
A similar mood carried over through the NLCS with about 60 to 70 fans showing up for the first three games of of the Mets’ four-game sweep, according to Stratton.
“It was all meant to be lighthearted stuff,” said Stratton, reflecting back on the past few weeks. “People just need to have fun with it. Enjoy their team’s successes.”