Q&A: Dropkick Murphys bassist Ken Casey on replicating the original sports pub

For Dropkick Murphys bassist and vocalist Ken Casey, it was a prophecy fulfilled when the Boston Red Sox broke an 86-year dry spell and won the World Series in 2004. That was the same year that his band re-introduced the song “Tessie,” a turn-of-the-century battle cry abandoned by Red Sox fans after the team’s last championship in 1918.

Casey had predicted the song—punked up and reworked to fit the Murphys’ brawling, Celtic sound—would rekindle a fan fervor missing from his hometown since the days of Michael McGreevy, a local pub owner who led a pack of “Tessie”-wailing baseball fanatics dubbed the Royal Rooters.

When the prediction came true, Casey couldn’t stop there. In 2008, he opened a replica of McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon in Boston with business partner and baseball historian Peter Nash (a.k.a. “Pete Nice” of the late-’80s, early-’90s hip-hop group 3rd Bass).

We spoke to the BoSox super-fan about life as a pub owner with a place in baseball history.

How did you come to open the pub?

I met Pete as he was doing a documentary on the Royal Rooters and the birth of Red Sox Nation. He said, “Yeah, I’ve built a replica of McGreevy’s up in Cooperstown.” I said, “Geez, a kid I grew up with had been looking into opening a bar, and he actually knows what he’s doing. Wouldn’t it make sense to open a working bar in Boston?”

I loved the story and just the whole kind of throw-back. It seemed nice to do something that was so old fashioned, and to replicate something from the turn of the century. It was fun to be involved with. Luckily, I don’t have to be so hands-on once it’s open and operating. My friend does all the hard work.

Michael T. McGreevy

How did you get access to original artwork, such as an original glass portrait of the pub’s founder?

Pete, as a collector, had a lot of it. But he’s also nuts. He’ll get going on a kick, and he’ll find, you know, the original door to McGreevy’s house in somebody’s attic. It would make a good reality show, actually.

When the story got out, so many people from around Boston would come to us and say, “My grandfather was one of the Royal Rooters, and I have this stuff in my attic,” and they were kind enough to let us display it. It kind of grew. People wanted to be a part of it.

Were you familiar with the original 3rd Base before this project?

I didn’t know much about it until I got involved with the Red Sox with the song “Tessie” and researched the story of the Royal Rooters and Michael McGreevy, the ringleader. It’s so cool; there’s so much Boston history there. JFK’s grandfather [and former Boston mayor] John F. Fitzgerald hung around there, and guys like Joseph “Sport” Sullivan. I mean, he was involved with the fixing of the 1919 World Series and was the bookie at McGreevy’s. The history’s really entertaining.

What’s the clientele like today? 

It’s definitely the home base for the Dropkicks and fans. The music format is kind of the rock-’n’-roll and punk-rock thing, which is different than any other venue on the street that has dance music and whatnot. People appreciate that there’s always some music going here. It’s a wild cross-section—everyone from tourists to suits after work, punk kids to athletes. But that’s what I hoped for, a real cast of characters.

How does it feel, as a lifelong Red Sox fan, to help bring back the spirit of the Rooters?

That was the whole gist when we got involved, that maybe this will bring back that spirit of, I guess, the modern-day version of that. And, lo and behold, you never really expect it to come true to a degree. The Rooters were like the original fanatics. Back then they’d be right down on the first-base line, banging bass drums and singing songs. They don’t let you get that close anymore, so you’ve got to turn it up to be heard, which is what we’re doing 100 years later. It’s a real honor to be in this circle. We’re diehard fans.

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