This is my article that I wrote after attending the Cubs Fan Convention in January 2007. If you have never attended a Cubs Fan Convention, I would highly recommend making plans for the January 2013 Convention as soon as the dates are announced.
I was very happy on December 24th to open an envelope that my wife had put in our Chanamus Tree. That envelope advised me that I was on my way home to Chicago the weekend of January 19th – 21st to attend the 22nd annual Cubs Convention at the Chicago Hilton. Needless to say I was pretty happy about that and starting thinking about what I wanted to make sure that I had with me when I was going to be heading home to attend this annual event.
Finally the weekend had arrived and I was up early on Friday to catch a flight to take me home to Chicago. The good thing for me though was that I had talked with Banter’s wonderful publisher/editor Stephanie Leathers about meeting up and was looking forward to seeing Stephanie again since I had last seen her back in July. I made my way to the Hilton and meet Stephanie for lunch. I think I surprised her when I bought lunch. It was just a way for me to say Thanks for meeting up with me and allowing me the honor of having a column in the Banter. Stephanie introduced me to her friend Sue who is a real nice person. Sue introduced me to Pam, another sweet heart of a person and some of her other friends while we were there and it made it a lot more fun for me. Stephanie and I went down to the convention check in and Stephanie said hello to some more people that she knew who worked for the Cubs. We both received our programs and our Scratch & Win tickets to see if we would get autographs from certain players that the Cubs had designated. Stephanie would up with Derrek Lee and I was lucky enough to have the honor of getting Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks.
Stephanie then advised that we needed to head up to the Grand Ballroom to make sure that we had a spot for the Opening Ceremonies for the Convention. Glad I listened and followed Stephanie, as had I not been there I may have not gotten in for the pomp and circumstance of the event. Pat Hughes from WGN was the MC for the ceremonies and did a fantastic job. All the various sponsors were recognized and Pepsi and the Hilton organization both made donations to Cubs Care at the start. As time when on, various people were introduced, then the Cubs of the past were introduced. It was great to see a lot of the old players being there to participate in the convention. Of course the players who received the loudest ovations were; Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and the one who was still on his way; Mark Grace received loud thunderous applause from the fans when his picture was presented stating he would be here tomorrow. It was pretty cool to be surrounded by so many Cubs fans and be a part of a tradition that has taken place now for almost a quarter of a century. Everyone talked about the new win now attitude and left people believing in the future for 2007.
At the conclusion of the ceremonies everyone was given a treasure map to find various players scattered around the convention to obtain autographs. I stayed just outside the Ballroom and almost had Ron Santo on a baseball and Ryno on a collage photo that I had brought with me to have him sign. Unfortunately it did not work out for me to obtain either signature that I was aiming for at that point. I walked around the downstairs banquet facilities were most of the convention was at and I finally stood in line to obtain Randy Hundley’s signature on a baseball. The hard part for me is that Randy was signing with Gene Oliver, who I do not remember and it was awkward for me as I only really wanted Randy’s signature. I would up having Gene sign my program instead of a ball. That pretty much took the rest of the time that the convention was running on Friday to complete and I was diligently planning my Saturday return.
I returned on Saturday and wandered around until they opened the doors to all the rooms at 9:00 am. The hall that was housing various players through out the day had opened early and there was a huge line for Kerry Wood & Carlos Zambrano. Both players were not signing until much later in the morning. I made my way into the hall where the food court was and had my breakfast of champions, an Italian Beef & Sausage Combo Sammich. Man that really hit the spot. After eating, I stopped by Fergie Jenkins booth for his foundation and made a donation so that I would be able to have Fergie sign a ball for me. For me it was a good way to start my quests for autographs that day. After thanking Fergie I went back over to the hall with all the fans and got in line to get autographs. The second one I obtained on Saturday was that of Lee Smith. Rod Beck was supposed to be there with Lee however, Shooter was a no show and there was no explanation as to why. I then went to join the line for Carlos Zambrano figuring that people who were waiting for Kerry Wood would be almost finished if not done already. I stood in line for over two hours and never made it back into the room where the autograph was available. When I finally gave up on my quest for Carlos, I left the line and headed for the line to get Ron Santo. Glad I got there when I did because as the time went on, it was getting pretty close on whether or not I would get to see Ron. Besides wanting Ron to sign my jersey, I had wanted to apologize to Ron for being an immature jerk a few years prior when I had gotten his autograph in San Diego and did not realize that it was Ron who was going to sign my t-shirt that I was wearing. Ron was ever gracious and said that he thought nothing of it and was flattered that I made such an effort. Ron signed my jersey, shook my hand and off I went for another autograph. At this point there was really only time left for one autograph that I needed to make sure that I was in line for and that was Mr. Cub himself Ernie Banks. I had to wait close to another two hours before I finally got up to Ernie and obtain his autograph.
As it was getting later and later into the evening, I wanted to make sure that I saw Stephanie once more. I headed back to Jay Butler Tours booth where I expected Stephanie to be and there she was. I thanked Stephanie for showing a convention rookie around and adding to my experience. We talked about that with the convention being 22 years old and counting; that maybe they would have a better way for more fans to obtain autographs that would not take up most of your day. There were many programs that I did want to attend however, I had to choose between the talking conversations or getting the few prize autographs that I wanted and I chose the autographs. I would have preferred to attend Lou Piniella 101 and the Boys of Zimmer, a discussion about the 1989 Cubs with Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace and a couple of other members of that team. Maybe next year if I decided to go, I will concentrate on the programs versus the autographs. Who am I kidding; I know that I will be back in line with everyone else hoping to add to my collection.
If you have not attended the Cubs Convention before, it definitely is a must. It is really a lot of fun to be surrounded by other die hard fans and meeting them to discuss the one thing that we all have in common, our beloved favorite baseball team. April 2nd is not too far away and all I know is that it is next year once again. I just hope that the Cubs will be better than last year. I always tell my friends that I will be happy if the Cubs get back to .500 baseball and anything beyond that is just icing on the cake. We’ll see what happens once spring training is over.