Please visit the Forum to share your thoughts on the Cubs Convention, who you got to meet, what presentations you attended, what you got autographed and what players and features you would like to see at the Cubs Convention.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why I Don’t Really Care that Wrigley Field is 100 Years Old in 2014


The Cubs’ home opener is an annual tradition of mine.  I attended my first in 1978 as a kindergartner, went again in 1981 and starting in 1993, have been to every one since.  Regardless of the number of times I have been able to watch my beloved Cubbies at the Friendly Confines over the years, however, there is still a certain awe I feel as I ascend the steps and the field unfolds in front of me. 

As I approached the corner of Clark and Addison this year, a gigantic banner announced that 2014 is going to be “The Party of the Century.”  Not because the Cubs are projected to contend this year, but because Wrigley Field is 100 years old.  Yay? 

Beginning at the 2014 Cubs Convention, it was clear that the organization was going to be making a huge deal about Wrigley Field’s 100th year as they unveiled a slick branding campaign and a slate of throwback uniforms, promotions and food choices (very loosely) associated with the various decades.  Really, who doesn’t immediately think of deep-fried mini corn dogs when asked about life in the 1940s? 

The first of 10 bobblehead giveaways.  
Frankly, however, I really don’t care and here is why:

Wrigley Field was not even originally built for the Cubs and they have only played there for 98 seasons. 

The ballpark was built by Charles Weeghman as the home ballpark for his Chicago team in the outlaw Federal League.  Completed just prior to opening day in 1914, Weeghman Park saw its first action on Thursday, April 23, 1914, as the Chicago squad beat the Kansas City Packers 9-1 in front of 21,000 people.  The league, however, ultimately failed in their attempts to establish themselves as a third major league. 

A settlement agreement in late 1915 with the National and American Leagues saw the dissolution of the Federal League, payment to the Federal League team owners and the transfer of the Cubs to Weeghman, who immediately moved the Cubs to his modern Northside ballpark to begin the 1916 season.
          
The giveaway for April 20, 2014 was this toy train for the 1910s weekend.
My son played with this for about five minutes before it broke.
I refuse to acknowledge the apparent metaphor.
The Cubs have never won a championship during their tenure at Wrigley Field 

Essentially, the “Party of the Century” is just a gigantic tribute to the team’s futility and a manifest reminder that 100 years have now passed without a World’s Championship.  In fact, at the time of the last World Series victory in 1908, the Cubs played at the West Side Grounds near where the Eisenhower expressway now runs.

If you are less than 68 years old, you have not even been alive for a World Series game played at Wrigley Field.  In perhaps an unintended acknowledgement as to the paucity of significant events that have taken place at Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ own website places Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” at the top of the amazingly short list!

Stickers given to the kids.
The woeful state of the current Major League team

The Cubs’ marketing department has certainly seized on the 100th anniversary thing with gusto.  The season-long celebration regarding the age of the building that the team calls home is about the only thing the Cubs are going to have to celebrate this year and I could not feel any more apathetic.  Who really cares that Wrigley Field is 100 years old?  I sure don’t and frankly, it would be much nicer to have something to cheer about on the field this year. 

While Cubs ownership and management are preaching continued patience as we wait for the recent draft classes to mature and we hold our collective breath for Javier Baez’s arrival, I am having trouble reconciling a marketing push and merchandising money grab surrounding the 100th year of Wrigley Field as the “Party of the Century.”
 
Mini-helmet ice cream bowls sporting 100th Anniversary logo.
It is too bad that the Cubs didn't think to print up promotional materials on edible paper so that they could literally cram the 100th Anniversary down our throats.  Sorry Cubs, but you oversold this one. 

As fans, we all know what the “Party of the Century” will actually be.  Let’s just hope it happens this century.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My Favorite Cubs Convention Regulars

The 2014 Cubs Convention was the 20th I've attended and over the years, I have met a bunch of cool people and, along with my sister, friend and his dad, have compiled a list of the memorable folks we see every year.  The first person we usually see is the the Assassin.  The Assassin usually wears a 3/4 length sleeved Cubs t-shirt and carries a hard-sided briefcase.  I have never seen inside the brief case but can only assume it has a custom foam insert to hold each of the pieces of one of those guns that has to be put together.  I'm sure he also has a nice selection of silencers.

For years there was a guy that looked like singer Michael McDonald that once had the audacity to wear a White Sox jacket to the Convention.  We never saw him break into "Sweet Freedom" but wished he had.  Michael McDonald has not been seen at the convention for some time so luckily Edgar Winter has shown up to take his place.

Edgar Winter decides whether to get in the Tim Stoddard autograph line.
The list of regulars also includes, among others, the Blind Mole, Bathrobe Guy, Reverse Helmet Hair Lady, Terre Haute, Rat Face Guy, the Chipmunk, Ethan the Go Getter and the guy that looks like my cousin Jimmy.

My hands down favorite, however, will always be Leather Pants. 

Note the sweet leather pants.
This guy is the epitome of awesome.  First and foremost, he always wears leather pants.  Second, he looks like Gargamel.  Third, he always wears the souvenir Convention sweatshirt the whole weekend.  Fourth, he scurries from place to place.  Finally, he is needlessly aggressive getting autographs and I have personally seen him told to back off by Jim Frey, Mickey Morandini and Jim Hendry.

Who are your favorites?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 Autograph Report


Due to the increasingly lighter crowds, we were able to meet plenty of current players, minor leaguers and Cubs alumni over the weekend.  On the program above are the signatures of Wesley Wright, Eric Hinske, Les Lancaster, Brooks Raley, Ron Coomer, Steve Trout, Kyle Hendricks, Eric Jokisch, Arodys Vizcaino, Jim Bullinger, Tim Stoddard, Chris Rusin and Pedro Strop.

Friday Night Autograph Hunt Game

For the autograph hunt game, we lined up at Stage E on the lower level before the Opening Ceremonies ended.  After having drawn Steve Trout first for the past two years, we were pleased when super prospect Albert Almora took the stage.  He said he is 100% healthy and looking forward to getting the 2014 season started.  He signed this card for me and threw horns but the camera took too long to flash and all I got was the photo below.  At least he looks happy.



Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were at the other stages but by the time we met Almora, the lines looked too long to be promising.  

We found Arodys Vizcaino in the hallway and he signed my program.  Tim Stoddard was also in the hallway and signed my program and this card, one he had never seen before:


Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley were signing at the Comcast booth; however, no one knew who they were. Perhaps embarrassingly for them, I had to ask who they were when I got to the front of the line.  Raley was very personable and told me that he used to collect Starting Lineup figures when he was a kid.  

Comcast's Kelly Crull was signing autographs too and posed for this photo:


We then headed up to the ballroom level and found Kyle Hendricks and Eric Jokisch signing on the concourse.  Jokisch quickly found Tim Stoddard's autograph on the program and commended Stoddard as his coach at Northwestern.  Both signed my program.

Hendricks (L) and Jokisch (R)
We then found Les Lancaster and Jim Bullinger at a table in the kids play area.  Lancaster had little to say but Bullinger was glad to be back at the Convention for the first time since his playing days ended.



I was just about to get in line for Bill Madlock and Blake Parker; however, the security guard cut the line off and I just missed out.  

Overall, it was a great autograph hunt evening.

We retired to the lobby bar for a few drinks and to watch the rest of the Hawks game.  (A big win over the Ducks.)  Bobby Dernier came and sat next to us for a while.  He was very personable and signed this photo for me:


Saturday

We got to meet Ron Coomer, former Cub and the new radio color man for the team.  He was super friendly and took the time to shake everyone's hand.  I learned he is a drinking man and although he is an Irish lad, he prefers a light beer to a Guinness.


Next, we met James Russell.


We headed downstairs and got in line for Mike Remlinger who can't believe that it has already been over 10 years since the magical, yet ultimately disappointing, 2003 season.



We were also able to meet new bullpen addition Wesley Wright, who signed the program and Justin Grimm, who bears an uncanny resemblance to playoff-bearded Brent Seabrook but, interestingly, had never heard of him.  Hmm.


Justin Grimm or Brent Seabrook?

We found Blake Parker just walking around:


 I sneezed just as I met Welington Castillo so he specially inscribed the photo for me.


Pretty good Saturday...

Sunday

We were able to wrap up the weekend with a few more autographs on Sunday, starting with Milt Pappas.  I asked Milt what he did wrong to draw the early slot on Sunday morning and he did not say anything or even look at me.


Next was Pedro Strop, who did not enjoy the cold weather compared to his home in the Dominican Republic.


We then met Dwight Smith, whose dream duet would be with Beyonce. 



Fergie Jenkins has a booth at the Convention and will sign autographs in exchange for a $20 donation to his charity.  There was no one waiting and I figured it would be a great opportunity to get a card signed for a good cause.  Born and raised in Canada, Jenkins was very personable but, shockingly, was not a Rush fan, although he did like Adam Levine from "Maroon."  When I said, "Oh, Maroon 5?" he replied, "Yeah, Maroon."  


Rollie Fingers and Gaylord Perry in the upper left hand corner

We met new first base coach Eric Hinske at the batting cages.  He does not miss playing yet and is looking forward to his transition to coaching this season.  "Playing baseball is hard work." - Eric Hinske

And no Cubs Convention would be complete without seeing Steve Trout and Tim Stoddard again. 

Trout (L) and Stoddard (R)


Until next year...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top Mustaches in Cubs History

Presenting the greatest mustaches in Cubs history:

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#15 - 1976 Topps Mike Garman
This card is a bonanza. Terribly airbrushed hat and warm-up jacket. Deadly serious steely gaze. Tough as nails mustache.

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#14 - 1985 7up Dennis Eckersley
Unfortunately, this Hall of Famer’s short tenure with the Cubs was most memorable for the terrific mustache-mullet combination.

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#13 - 1981 Topps Willie Hernandez
This is a magical portrait of a serious fellow that would be unhittable in 1984 with the Tigers.

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#12 - 1984 Fleer Jerry Morales
Compare Kosuke Fukudome’s offensive numbers to Jerry Morales’ and tell me who’d you rather have in the outfield. Still on the fence? Consider the mustache.

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#11 - 1975 Topps Carmen Fanzone
Besides having a last name perfectly suited for a sports bar, Carmen Fanzone was also a featured trumpet player on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. You can’t tell me that his mustache had nothing to do with that.

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#10 - 1981 Topps Dennis Lamp
Ever seen a guy that looks just like this at the flea market? I thought so. Dennis Lamp simply mystified batters with his Fu-Manchu and smoke-tinted specs.

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#9 - 1986 Fleer Davey Lopes
I can only assume that Mr. Lopes looks so angry in this photo because he had just been confused for John Oates.























#8 - 1991 Upper Deck Shawon Dunston
The needle on the Shawon-O-Meter is pointing directly at this glorious mustache/soul patch combo.






















#7 - 1996 Fleer Ultra Doug Jones
Doug Jones came to the Cubs as a five-time All-Star in 1996.  As luck would have it, however, his 78 mile per hour fastball didn't fool many batters and he was run out of town by the middle of June.  Our best memories of Jones will always be his old timey mustache.






















#6 - 1998 Topps Rod Beck
Rod Beck was a beast in 1998, saving 51 games as the Cubs captured a Wild Card playoff berth.  Unfortunately, Beck was afflicted with addictions that claimed his life at just 38 years old.  This is a tribute to the Shooter and his wicked Fu Manchu.  






















#5 - 1989 Upper Deck Goose Gossage
Goose Gossage's 1988 season with the Cubs saw the eventual Hall of Famer mired in mediocrity near the end of his career.  His handlebar mustache was far from mediocre, however.

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#4 - 1981 Fleer Tim Blackwell
You’ll never convince me that the walrus was Paul. Tim Blackwell’s scrub brush mustache was so intense you’d swear he's hiding tusks.

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#3 - 1983 Fleer Bill Buckner
Billy Buck still rocks these prodigious whiskers. Thankfully, he has taken steps to get the neck hair under control.

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#2 - 1981 Topps Coca-Cola Dick Tidrow
Dirt’s mustache is so awesome, he can barely stand to look at you.



#1 - 2013 Topps Carlos Villanueva
Wow.  An inspiration to gentlemen everywhere.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Updated List of Confirmed Convention Guests

Major League Players:

Jake Arrieta RHP
Darwin Barney INF
Welington Castillo C
Starlin Castro INF
Kyuji Fujikawa RHP
Justin Grimm RHP
Edwin Jackson RHP
George Kottaras C
Junior Lake OF
Donnie Murphy INF
Blake Parker RHP
Brooks Raley LHP
Anthony Rizzo INF
Hector Rondon RHP
Justin Ruggiano OF
Chris Rusin LHP
James Russell LHP
Jeff Samardzija RHP
Nate Schierholtz OF
Pedro Strop RHP
Ryan Sweeney OF
Luis Valbuena INF
Carlos Villanueva RHP
Jose Veras RHP
Travis Wood LHP
Wesley Wright LHP

Minor League Players:

Arismendy Alcantara INF
Albert Almora, OF
Javier Baez INF
Kris Bryant INF
C.J. Edwards RHP
Kyle Hendricks RHP
Pierce Johnson RHP
Eric Jokisch LHP
Mike Olt INF
Neil Ramirez RHP
Armando Rivero RHP
Rubi Silva OF
Jorge Soler OF
Christian Villanueva INF
Arodys Vizcaino RHP

Former Players:

Ernie Banks INF
Glenn Beckert INF
Jim Bullinger P
Bobby Dernier OF
Scott Eyre P
Randy Hundley C
Fergie Jenkins P
Jay Johnstone OF
Les Lancaster P
Derrek Lee 1B
Ted Lilly P
Bill Madlock INF
Gary Matthews OF
Dave Otto P, Broadcaster
Milt Pappas P
Mark Prior P
Mike Remlinger P
Scott Sanderson P
Dwight Smith OF
Lee Smith P
Tim Stoddard P
Rick Sutcliffe P
Steve Trout P
Billy Williams OF
Kerry Wood P

Coaching Staff:

Rick Renteria, Manager
Mike Borzello, Catching Coach
Chris Bosio, Pitching Coach
Mike Brumley, Assistant Hitting Coach
Jose Castro, Quality Assurance Coach
Eric Hinske, First Base Coach
Brandon Hyde, Bench Coach
Gary Jones, Third Base Coach
Bill Mueller, Hitting Coach
Lester Strode, Bench Coach

Team Executives/Broadcasters:

Tom Ricketts, Chairman
Laura Ricketts, Board Member
Pete Ricketts, Board Member
Todd Ricketts, Board Member
Theo Epstein, President, Baseball Operations
Crane Kenney, President, Business Operations
Jed Hoyer, EVP/GM
Jason McLeod, SVP, Scouting & Player Development
Randy Bush, Assistant GM
Shiraz Rehman, Assistant to the GM
Pat Hughes, Radio Broadcaster
Ron Coomer, Radio Broadcaster
Len Kasper, TV Broadcaster
Jim Deshaies, TV Broadcaster


Additionally, the Cubs have announced that they will have meet and greet opportunities with Cubs celebrities in exchange for donations to the Cubs Care charity on a limited basis at $125 for current players and $150 for former players. The cost includes an official ball and an opportunity for photos and chit chat with the player..

Also, at registration everyone will get a pull-tab card for a chance to get a guaranteed autograph opportunity.

Finally, the Cubs will let you park at Wrigley Field for the weekend for just $25, the catch being that you will have to provide your own transportation to the hotel from there.  This is probably a $20 cab ride each way.  Public transportation via the CTA red line is just ½ a block east of Wrigley Field at Addison.  The closest stop to the Sheraton is Grand and this puts you about .7 miles from the hotel.


View Larger Map

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The 12 Weirdest Cards in Cubs History

Every year, baseball card manufacturers have to make choices when selecting the photographs for their respective sets.  Typically, one would expect that the people in charge of photo selection will have several shots to choose from, including posed shots, candids and action shots.  Sometimes, however, the choices are rather curious.  Accordingly, here are the 12 weirdest cards in Cubs history:

#12
1986 Fleer Reggie Patterson (Card No. 376)


Reggie Patterson's claim to fame is probably being the Cubs pitcher who gave up Pete Rose's 4191st hit on September 8, 1985, tying him with Ty Cobb for the all-time hits record.  Although Patterson won the last three games he started for the Cubs in 1985, he never pitched again in the major leagues.  This photo shows a grumpy Patterson hanging out with the tarp and some bags.  It's beautiful.

#11
1996 Topps Stadium Club Todd Zeile (Card No. 420)


Todd Zeile came over in a trade with the Cardinals on June 16, 1995 for Mike Morgan and some minor leaguers.  In this technology time capsule, Zeile is clearly on the phone with Jerry Maguire seeking a deal to get him out of Chicago.

#10
1993 O-Pee-Chee Premier Candy Maldonado (Card No. 83)


"Ya girl, tell me more about your cats, they sound so interesting." This card creeps me out.

#9
1998 Topps Scott Servais (Card No. 92)



Scott Servais was a steady catcher as a Cub but Topps chose a picture that makes him look like a clown walking a tightrope.  Plus the ball is behind him.

#8
1994 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Glenallen Hill (Card No. 137)


Glenallen Hill will forever be known for the monster home run he hit onto the rooftop across from Wrigley Field and having violent spider nightmares.  On this occasion, however, he apparently just had some loaded brownies and wanted to be close to the towels.

#7
1993 Upper Deck Andre Dawson (Card No. 308)


Well, certainly not as direct as the Hawk getting beaned in the face but Upper Deck did a great job here simulating Andre Dawson running his face into the brick wall after making this spectacular catch.  Ouch.

#6
1976 Topps Rick Reuschel (Card No. 359)


Hey Rick, do you mind grabbing a helmet to pose for a quick picture?  Thanks for being so accommodating, how about a big smile and an awkward lean-in, too?

#5
1981 Fleer Lynn McGlothlen (Card No. 302)


Okay, apart from crappy photo quality the big question remains, why is there a sack of potatoes on the field?

#4
1993 Fleer Greg Hibbard (Card No. 379)


I can't think of another card in which a Cubs player is depicted on his card in a White Sox uniform but even better is the transaction triangle stating that Hibbard came to the Cubs from the Marlins.  This card sets the record for most teams listed on the front of a card.

#3
1984 Fleer Jay Johnstone (Card No. 495)


This one is great not only for jokester Johnstone's Budweiser umbrella hat but also for the look on his face.  It's as if he just found out someone ate the last loaded brownie.

#2
1978 Topps Dave Kingman (Card No. 570)


In 1977, Dave Kingman played for the Mets, Padres, Angels and Yankees, setting a record as the only player ever to have hit a home run for a team in each of the four divisions (at that time) in the same season. For his 1978 card, the folks at Topps turned to their talented airbrush artists and gave them one simple instruction, "Get rid of everything but his face, even if you have to chop off his right ear!"

#1
1994 Topps Stadium Club Dan Plesac (Card No. 256)


This one tops the list only because of all of the levels of drugs it passed through on the way to be approved for manufacture.  Plesac was on acid.  The photographer was on acid.  The person who selected the photo was on acid.  The person who centered the photo was on acid.  Even Plesac's ghost was on acid.  This is the epitome of weird.

Anyway, here's what Mark Grace thinks of these cards: