As Belinda Carlisle once opined (oh yes, I am going there), Heaven Is a Place on Earth. And while Kevin Costner might claim it’s Iowa, the Chicago Hilton and Towers does its best to displace Cubs fans from reality for one weekend a year. And that weekend begins today.
Long-time CCO readers know that I have written a column each of the last three Januarys about the Convention, and some know that the 2006 Convention was the first event I covered for the CCO. The convention was my beginning at ChicagoCubsOnline and as Harry used to say, it is the unofficial start to the baseball season. So, let’s great ready Cubs fans.
I am sure everyone has seen the guest list as well as the weekend schedule, so instead of regurgitating that information, I plan to tell you my favorite memories from Conventions past.
I am 30-years-old and grew up almost worshipping Andre Dawson. I was brought to tears last week when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. At my first convention, I sat next to him, had my picture taken with him and got an autograph. See, I am not an autograph person at all, but it’s Andre FRIGGIN Dawson. I loved Ryno and Gracie, but I was committed to the Hawk.
Every year Hendry and Piniella sit at the platform and field questions from the audience for a good 30-40 minutes, and I must say both men are rather candid with their respective replies. Some years (post ’07) there is love, some years (post ’06) there is not. As you can imagine, the previous season normally dictates the ire or joy with which each question is presented, but the honesty can be refreshing.
There is normally a unique Saturday afternoon panel featuring players from the past. Whether it is celebrating the Boys of Zimmer or honoring the legends of ’69, this panel never fails to entertain the masses.
Friday night, Dave Kaplan broadcasts his Sports Central show live with the likes of Len, Bob, Ron and Pat or Lilly and Dempster. These sessions are very popular and the gloves come off. In recent years, Lilly and Demp shared stories of the pranks they played one another. Let’s just say ‘Ben-Gay’ secretly placed in boxer shorts is none to comfortable.
I know many of you on this great site love following the minor leagues and learning about the future of the Cubs. Sunday mornings the minor leagues take center stage as Oneri Fleita and Tim Wilken along with two current players (Darwin Barney and Brandon Guyer last year) spend an hour walking the audience through much of the day-to-day operations of the scouting department. Fans get the chance to ask about certain individuals and the answers are normally thorough and fair.
From autograph sessions to overpriced buffets, the Cubs Convention offers something for everyone. Wander down to the basement and find a goldmine of memorabilia and, maybe, as we did last year, even Lou Brock. Go to the other side of the basement and grab a plate of nachos and see how fast you can actually throw a baseball. (If you do so this year, please report back with your MPH, it can be a contest.) I threw 98 last year, but told Rothschild I was not interested in playing.
If you have never been, please find some time in the next few years to do so. It is an experience you won’t forget. If you are going this year, have a great time, and look for me. I am about 6’2 and look like a mix between Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe.
The Cubs take the field in three months for real, but the season actually starts today.
102 years and counting.
Stay well and until next time …
Stay Classy Cubs Fans!