Remembering Back: The First Die-Hard Cubs Fan Convention

This week marks the 34th annual Chicago Cubs Convention, and boy has it come a long way. The 2019 edition comes to you from the Sheraton Grand Chicago and will begin Friday afternoon January 18, ending on Sunday January 20.

It wasn’t always the big attraction it has become. Marketing genius John McDonough came up with the idea and it was unveiled on January 31, 1986 at the Chicago Hyatt Regency.

A few weeks ahead of the event, the franchise was expecting up to 2,000 fans for the inaugural convention. Players scheduled to attend included: Ryne Sandberg, Gary Matthews, Scott Sanderson, and Davey Lopes.

The Chicago Tribune had a preview of what those die-hard Cubs fans could expect heading to the Hyatt Regency.

There was much to be celebrated at recent conventions. The excitement in 2016 after a surprise run to the National League Championship Series just months before. The biggest of reasons to celebrate in 2017 following a World Series that had escaped the Cubs for 108 years. A third consecutive run to the NLCS in 2017. But, 2019 will be different. Only minor moves have been made this off season after a loss in a one-game playoff for the NL Central against the Milwaukee Brewers, followed by a NL Wild Card loss to the Colorado Rockies. Both games at the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field. So, this weekend Theo Epstein will be grilled by critics about the unmet expectations of 2018, a slow off season, and questions regarding a Cubs TV Network.

It will be much like then-Cubs general manager Dallas Green had to face fans after a disappointing 1985 season (following the 1984 run to the NLCS), and the hot topic of lights at Wrigley Field.

It’s bittersweet to look back at the first Cubs Convention. What an event this has turned into. At the same time, I read quotes from fans in 1986 that I know didn’t get to see the team finally win a World Series. Take Frances Downs, for example. She was interviewed by multiple newspapers at the first convention, even mentioning being in the Wrigley Field stands for the 1945 World Series. Mrs. Downs was only able to see the Cubs make one more playoff berth (1989) before passing away in October 1990.

Lights weren’t the only thing Green was vocal about in 1986. The Cubs GM was pretty outspoken about the play of one Ron Cey.

One thing I personally look forward to each convention is seeing the different types of dress by fans. It’s always enjoyable to find the most obscure jersey. Maybe someone will sport an Augie Ojeda jersey this year with his name on the guest list. The Decatur Herald & Review took notice of some “wacky” outfits in year one.

And finally, the Muncie Star Press set the overall setting of the Cubs Convention, much of which hasn’t changed in 34 years…with the exception of the location.

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