Chicago Cubs Convention report

Tony Kozelichki

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Later than usual, I've finally returned from the Cubs Convention, my 15th straight. Here's what I can offer:

After checking in the hotel and getting our passes, I made my way to the Fergie Jenkins Foundations booth where I paid Jenkins $20 to sign a 1971 Sporting News. His foundations, while benefits JDRF, takes $20 donations and had Bill Buckner, Lee Smith, Bobby Dernier and non-Cub Rollie Fingers signing throughout the weekend. Can't beat it for $20, and the only money I spent on autographs all weekend.

Next stop was the vendor booths. As was last year, very poor for advanced collectors. Only one had cards. A couple had autographed balls and photos, but most were T-shirts and hat dealers. My wife picked up a couple of 2015 post season T's for $5 apiece (like the ones the players wore after the wild card game and St. Louis series). I really had no interest.

Off to the Cubs Authentics booth. Game used and team issued jerseys, hats, and other gear were available. Game used bases from the post season were $600 each on Friday then marked down to $300 on Saturday (when they sold out). Some post season jerseys with all the patches were available, but since it was virtually all coaches and players who are no longer on the team (Denorfia, Herrera, etc.), I didn't buy anything. A few bats and shoes were also available.

The one item that drew a lot of interest was the Schwarber ball he hit on top of the scoreboard in the St. Louis series was on display.

Didn't go to the game used auction for the first time in many years. I really am not looking for anything of newer players, although virtually anyone from the 2015 team was represented. The only item I saw auctioned off was a team issued (not game used) jersey of Jon Lester that went for $300. I thought that was an outrageous price, and that was one of the first items sold, so I'm glad I didn't stick around.

The convention opened Friday night with player introductions. I listed those scheduled on my Fan Fest posting. The only one not in attendance was Ted Lilly while Glenn Beckert and Jay Johnstone were in attendance but not listed. This was followed by an excellent highlight video then a second installment (last year was the first) of "Late Night with Ryan Dempster" an absolutely hilarious talk show with the former Cubs pitcher serving as host and guests included Epstein and Hoyer; Joe Maddon; Rizzo, Bryant and Schwarber; Lester and Lackey; and backup catcher David Ross, who stole the show.

At the same time, minor leaguers were signing autographs in the basement of the Sheraton. Last year, the rookies who signed were Bryant, Schwarber, Baez, Russell and Soler. This year's top name was probably Vogelbach. Since you can't be in two places at once, my wife and I opted for Dempster.

At the end of Friday, one auto: Jenkins.

Saturday: Bought a grab bag of stadium giveaway items for $30. Nothing in it that I'll keep, so I'll probably sell it at my table at a February show and get my money back. Best item is a replica scoreboard clock, but I already had one.

I came to the convention looking for only four autographs. Since my son died in 2014, I don't chase signatures as much as we did when he was with me. Good thing, as we often waited in the lobby until 2 or 3 in the morning each night. More about that later.

My targets were Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Bill Madlock and Jose Cardenal. That's all. Bryant and Arrieta were only available to fans you got their names on a pull tab which were given out when we arrived. Other pull tabs were for Sandberg, Lester, Addison Russell, Rizzo, Soler, Jason Heyward and Schwarber. Sunday's pull tabs were for Soler, Jason Hammel (?) and Kyle Hendricks (another ?). How those latter two got top billing, I'll never figure out.

Other autographs that days were available in hour long sessions, featuring just about everyone in attendance. Maddon, however, did not sign, nor did Billy Williams or Rick Sutcliffe.

I got a pull tab for Arrieta! Very pleased. Offered $100 for it, but wouldn't take it. I heard guys were getting $250 for Bryant. I think Heyward was also much sought after. With the pull tab, you're guaranteed and autograph as long as you show up on time. I got the Arrieta on a ball, headed over to the Cardenal line (he also signed at noon and continued signing past his hour limit which was good for me since I got his signature on an RC can before he left) then got in line for Madlock who was signing at 1:00 and by 1:20 had a store model Madlock glove signed. Three out of my four targets in a little more than an hour and a half!

The rest of the day was spent in convention halls listening to the players talk. Went to Cubs Jeopardy (always popular), Life Off the Field (Addison Russell was very impressive), Cubs in Cooperstown (Sandberg and Billy Williams--excellent), Rock Star Rookies (Bryant, Baez, Russel and Schwarber--another great one), and Family Feud (should have gone of Cy Young winners (Arrieta and Rick Sutcliffe because Feud, which is often good, sucked this year because the players were uninteresting). Played bingo that night... my card sucked but the woman sitting next to me won Greg Maddux's retirement flag that flew over Wrigley Field. She was offered $1000 for it, but turned it down. The guy who won Billy Williams flag offered to trade for the Maddux, but she turned that down, as well. I was really hoping to get Santo's flag, but no luck. Tough to win at bingo was a few thousand people playing.

I was too tired to sit in the lobby and chase autographs... and it's a good thing I didn't. I found out Sunday morning that the players were not even staying at the same hotel as they had in years past. Anton and I literally got hundreds of autographs in the lobby over the years. They've apparently clamped down on player accessibility at the hotels.

Sunday: Went to a session with Dernier, Cardenal and Lee Smith. Very good as Dernier is always well spoken, Smitty told some good stories, and Jose's broken English makes for a fun trip down memory lane. A quick check of the vendors (bought a Radko Cubs Christmas ornament and received a free autographed 8x10. I picked Carlos Marmol because there was no one really worth having and he did pitch in an all star game or two.

Left to come home and after lunch and some shopping, only took about 9 hours to make the 3 and a half hour drive home.

Came looking for four autographs, got three of them plus Jenkins on a Sporting News that will be framed and hung in the man cave. Arrieta's ball joins Hooten, Pappas, Holtzman, Zambrano and Cardwell balls as no hit pitchers (only missing one Cub--Sam "Toothpick" Jones from the mid-50's--impossible to find) and Jenkins, Sutter, Sutcliffe and Maddux balls as Cy Young winners (that's all of them, I think).

Spent more time listening to sessions and less than ever chasing autographs, but thing have changed since I lost Anton a couple years back. A relaxing weekend and an enjoyable weekend. Looking forward to this season and next year's convention.
 

Loyalty32

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Tony - I can't tell you how much I look forward to and enjoy reading this EVERY year! A great read as usual! I would LOVE to see some pictures of the man cave!

Thanks
Craig
 
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