On Oct. 25, 1986, North Buffalo tavern owner Tom Murray fired his bartender. For laughing.
This dismissal may sound unreasonable, but understand the following: Murray is a devout Boston Red Sox fan. The bartender in question was a New York Yankees fan. And the reason for the laughing? It was Game 6 of the World Series, and Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner had just let a routine grounder through his legs to cost Boston the game. It was no laughing matter between historically bitter rivals, so Murray’s decision was simple: the bartender had to go.
Now more than 30 years later, Murray’s Tavern still operates as a Red Sox sanctuary in the middle of North Buffalo’s substantial congregation of Yankees fans. But despite one employee being memorably shown the door, the locale has somehow facilitated friendly interaction between fans of baseball’s greatest enemies since 1978.
This cohesive intermingling starts with Murray’s father, Russell, the tavern’s first owner and longtime Sox fan. When legendary Boston slugger Ted Williams passed through Buffalo-area Sears locations to do fly-fishing exhibitions throughout his retirement, Russell would bring his son to see him. “Williams was like a god to my father,” said the Red Sox Hawaiian shirt-clad Tom, who would eventually take on the family tavern—and his father’s baseball team of choice.
Today, Tom runs Murray’s Tavern as a Red Sox-leaning locale amid a neighborhood of YES Network subscribers. After being priced out of its original Hertel Avenue location six years ago, the operation moved to its current Delaware Avenue address and nearly doubled in size. Now, those loyal to intersecting red stockings or otherwise have more room to hoist cheap bottles of Budweiser amid signed baseballs, odes to Williams and the newly retired David Ortiz, and this season’s poster-sized schedule, all stationed in various spots across the barroom. The tavern’s foam ceiling tiles — which traveled from the original Hertel locale — are painted to pay homage to such items as area businesses, lost friends and the Bills appearance in Super Bowl XXVIII.
Those stopping by Murray's should be ready for the beauty of bare-bones tavern fare. Sure, there are a few craft draft options (via Southern Tier and EBC), but the neighborhood locale is best experienced with cold bottles of Bud or Miller Lite (poured into a juice glass), house-temperature Jameson's and laughing conversation with friends and strangers. And to those entering Murray's with an appetite, bad news: no food menu, and its main source of nourishment--a popcorn machine that made the move from Hertel--died last month. That leaves the bar's lonely box of Slim Jims (for $1.50 per) as the only option for the desperately starving.
Despite Murray’s familial fan loyalties to the Red Sox, his tavern still accommodates fans that worship at the altar of DiMaggio, Mantle and Jeter. There are plenty of these Yankees supporters that settle in and, in most cases, serve drinks behind the bar. Though in stark contrast to a Red Sox-Yankees holy war that’s featured close to a century of acrimony—and one insensitive laughing fit that cost a North Buffalo bartender his job—fans of both teams are able to peacefully interact inside the laid-back locale, all for the love of baseball.
For Murray’s Tavern and its Boston-backing owner, it’s the order of the day—and benefits the survival of his Red Sox island in a sea of pinstripes.
Where: 2455 Delaware Ave.
When: Open typical Buffalo drinking hours, Monday to Sunday.
Why: To hoist a few beers inside Buffalo’s only Boston Red Sox bar—albeit surrounded by more than a few Yankees fans.
Parking: Side parking lot; spots on Delaware.
Credit/Debit: No; ATM is on the premises.
Beers on tap: 7
Safe choice: Bottle of Miller Lite
Boston loyalist choice: Sam Adams Summer Ale
Time for a Sox win: Look to the bar’s upper reaches to find its most eclectic piece of Red Sox memorabilia—a team-branded cuckoo clock.
Pose with Yaz: Murray’s front windows flank a framed poster of legendary Red Sox left fielder, Carl Yastrzemski.
And if you hate sports: Find a bar stool, make some new friends, and politely nod along with the baseball banter.