Raising a glass to a Chicago icon

schaller-s-pump

After more than 135 years of service in Bridgeport, Schaller’s Pump is closing.

As a White Sox fan who grew up on the South Side and spent five happy years living in Bridgeport I believe the only way to describe this news is thusly: it sucks.

Schaller’s was one of the last few refuges for us Sox fans. I’m sure that the occasional Cubs fan must have sneaked in there at some point, but Schaller’s was THE White Sox bar in the city. It’s closing is just the latest in a string of kick-in-the-crotch moments for fans of this team.

“It’s sad to hear that this Bridgeport institution – just blocks from our ballpark – is closing,” Scott Reifert, team spokesman for the White Sox told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday. “Generations of White Sox fans made a stop at Schaller’s part of their tradition when attending a Sox game. I am sure that fans who can not get to Schaller’s tonight are still likely to raise a glass wherever they are to honor this icon of Chicago history.”

When the White Sox played their very first game in 1901, Schaller’s had already been open for 20 years. In fact, Schaller’s was open back when the Cubs (then called the White Stockings) were playing in the South Side back in the 1890s.

Schaller’s never had the clientele or the fame of some of the bars up north. There was no celebrated writer praising it the way Royko praised Billy Goat’s. It’s unlikely that Eddie Vedder ever stopped by, and if he did he sure as hell didn’t sing some song about the Cubs. Though, the bar’s long-time owner Jack Schaller loved to talk about the time Jimmy Stewart was there filming “Call Northside 777.”

That was back in 1948.

Arguably the thing it was most known for was that it was right across the street from the 11th Ward Office, the home of the Daley’s. The New York Times sent journalists there a few times, once to talk about the end of the Daley machine when Jane Byrne was elected and another time to talk about Richard M. Daley’s pending election in 1989.

That was 27 years ago and Richard M. Daley has been out of office for six years now. The Daley’s aren’t in office anymore and arguable aren’t even the most famous political family from the south side anymore.

“Because the politicians hung out here, everyone thought it was a politician’s place,” said Jill Nolan, Jack Schaller’s daughter who worked at the bar for more than 40 years. “It really wasn’t.”

She told me that for a story I did about the bar in 2013 with the Medill News Service. The primary reason I pitched that story was because it seemed like a great excuse to hang out at one of my favorite bars ostensibly under the guise of “working.”

One of my favorite memories from that night was there was a group of regulars sitting in the corner, talking amongst themselves and a few of them had very thick Chicago accents with a healthy distrust of the proper “th” sound.

As I was shooting b-roll for my story I got a little bit closer to them and overheard one of them say: “I know dat Fellini is well regarded and La Dolce Vita is ‘sposed to be some masterpiece, but I don’t like dat neo-realism.”

Only at Schaller’s could you hear a sentence like that.


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