New Phillies beer garden replaces a bar with dark history

McFadden’s Ballpark was never a classy spot — but then a patron was stomped to death.

McFadden’s Ballpark
David Kent/Flickr Creative Commons

Clarification appended

Superstar Bryce Harper isn’t the only thing jazzing up Citizens Bank Park this year. The Phillies off-season brought some major upgrades to the ballpark — the most noticeable of which is renovations that made room for an open-air beer garden called Pass and Stow next to a Shake Shack.

One thing people relaxing in the new family-friendly concession may not realize: the space has a relatively sordid past.

Previously in that location was a tavern called McFadden’s Ballpark. It opened at the South Philly sports complex in 2004, and lasted until October 2018, when it was shut down to make way for the new spots.

But unlike other pubs run by East Coast Saloons, a management group notorious for rowdy party bars, this McFadden’s wasn’t just a place where people leered about drunkenly. It was a place where things occasionally went too far.

At one point, the antics even resulted in death.

Death over a spilled drink

In July 2009, a bachelor party and a men’s bar crawl met at McFadden’s debaucherous crossroads during a Phillies-Cardinals game.

Details are hazy, but at some point or another, a drink was spilled and aggression sparked amid the cluster of 38 men that afternoon.

Witnesses and friends described how, after sucker-punching one of the bachelor party guests  — later identified as David W. Sale Jr., whose sister was the one getting married — three men dragged him out to the parking lot.

The men then reportedly held Sale down and began kicking him and beating him.

One witness, Dan Curran, told The Inquirer how he remembered Sale crawling on all fours with blood gushing out of his wounds, trying to get help before one final blow to the back of his neck. Eventually, the three men were pulled away, leaving Sale there with his head on Curran’s lap.

Police arrived to find Sale lying unconscious on the pavement, his face unrecognizable. He was rushed to Penn Hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe brain trauma, a partially torn-off left ear and a tear in his left vertebral neck artery.

Doctors worked hard, but were unable to save the victim.

Shortly after the game ended, the Lansdale native was pronounced dead. Even more heartbreaking, it happened to be Sale’s birthday.

A mistrial, a guilty plea and parole

Identified as Francis Kirchner, Charles Bowers and James Dean Groves, the three men accused of the beatdown were charged and brought to trial.

On Sept. 20, 2011, they were in court when a witness unexpectedly offered incriminating evidence. Spurred by prosecutor questioning, a friend Sale’s identified Kirchner specifically as being responsible for the kick that ended his friend’s life. However, that detail had not presented as evidence to Kirchner’s defense attorney, so Common Pleas Court Judge Shelley Robins New ruled a mistrial.

A month later, all three defendants pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. At an eight-hour hearing soon after, Common Pleas Court Judge Shelley Robins sentenced the three men to terms varying from 2 to 18 years.

Since then, all three have been released on parole.

A sister McFadden’s, located in Northern Liberties, shut down in 2015, but McFadden’s Ballpark continued sputtering along.

Some observers believe the pub’s business slowed because of its deathly reputation, but others point fingers at low attendance rates at Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies struggled over the past several seasons

Either way, East Coast Saloons was ready to throw in the towel. So this year, instead of shots poured in Dixie cups, there’ll be craft beer and fire pits.

The new space

As Pass and Stow, the 24,500 square feet has been filled with multiple indoor and outdoor bars, picnic tables, an enormous patio area, a pizzeria and 44 TVs. The design pays venue homage to the Liberty Bell, and there’s a split-flap board that shows game updates.

The 6,000-square-foot Shake Shack next door will be the chain’s first sit-down restaurant at a sports venue.

Both venues are set to begin serving fans at the home opener against the Atlanta Braves on March 28.

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Food, Sports, Phillies