Lindell Hotel Bar, 1963
THE WAY IT WAS
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE WALTER P. REUTHER LIBRARY, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY
1963In 1949, Greek immigrant Meleti Butsicaris and sons Johnny and Jimmy opened an unassuming bar on the ground floor of the Lindell Hotel at Cass and Bagley. Little did they know their establishment would figure prominently in the lore and legend of Detroit. This shot from January 1963 shows Johnny in front of the original watering hole (it relocated later that year). In the 1950s, a scrappy player from the New York Yankees named Billy Martin (who would eventually manage the Tigers) suggested the place assume an athletic theme. Photos, jerseys, bats, and hockey sticks soon adorned the walls. But it was Lindell’s denizens, not its décor, that truly made the place memorable. Pro athletes from home and visiting teams bellied up to the bar, as well as weather forecaster Sonny Eliot, Detroit News columnist Doc Greene, and hordes of sports fans. Even national celebs dropped in, including comedian Milton Berle. In 1963, the Lindell moved down the street to Cass and Michigan in an equally unpretentious building. Greene suggested adding “AC” after the name, an ironic reference to the ritzy Detroit Athletic Club (DAC). Colorful Lindell stories abounded, including a 1960s brawl between wrestler Dick the Bruiser and Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras. The two lugs tore the place up, and the wrestler lived up to his name, with Karras reportedly taking most of the bumps and bruises. In 1969, Martin, then manager of the Minnesota Twins, tangled with his own pitcher, Dave Boswell. But this time, they rumbled in a nearby alley. Jimmy Butsicaris died in 1996; Johnny followed in 2011. The Lindell served its last brew in 2002, and the fabled bar came tumbling down in 2006 to make way for the Rosa Parks Transit Center.