Fans of Detroit watering holes of yore, take note: A documentary about the legendary Lindell AC sports bar makes its TV debut Thursday night on Detroit Public Television.
It’s called “Meet Me At the Lindell: The Story of America’s First Sports Bar.” The 44-minute documentary from director Jason Danieliwicz first screened in 2017 at the Freep Film Festival.
The Lindell AC was famous for many reasons, including for being a place where professional athletes showed up and mingled with common folk — something that’s virtually unheard of in today’s big-money sports era.
Greek immigrant Meleti Butsicaris and his sons, Johnny and Jimmy, purchased the bar in 1949, when it was part of a seedy hotel called the Lindell. Legend has it that New York Yankees infielder Billy Martin suggested they adopt a sports theme, using framed photographs and donated game mementos.
The bar quickly became a favorite gathering place for local and visiting athletes from all four professional sports leagues, and for journalists. It relocated just down the street in 1963 and became the Lindell AC, short for “Athletic Club,” a nod to the much tonier Detroit Athletic Club across town.
The list of famous names who drank in the bar is a long one and includes Martin, who fought his own player in the alley behind the bar; Gordie Howe; Al Kaline; Andre The Giant; Mickey Mantle; and Sonny Eliot; and, in a famous photograph, an actual elephant.
The Lindell AC closed in 2002, a victim of plans for the Rosa Parks Transit Center.
“Meet Me At the Lindell” airs Thursday, August 22 at 9 p.m. on Detroit Public Televisio, Channel 56..