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Grand Slam

The new Chicago Sports Museum scores big with high-tech interactive exhibits and artifacts galore.

Valuable Asset
While DePorter knows a thing or two about collecting sports memorabilia, it doesn’t hurt that the museum has some heavy hitters onboard as investors, including Harry Caray’s wife Dutchie, Brandon Marshall, Patrick Kane, Bobby Hull, Marv Levy, Ryne Sandberg, and Richard Dent. In fact, it’s former Chicago Bears defensive end Dent who lent the museum his Most Valuable Player Super Bowl XX trophy from the team’s win over the New England Patriots.

Flying High
“Anything tied to Michael Jordan is precious,” says DePorter, a lifelong sports fan. That includes the two pairs of shoes worn by the Chicago Bulls legend displayed at the museum. Located inside a glass case with two jerseys, a basketball and warm-up suit from His Airness, this collection is one of the first things visitors see upon entering. “Everyone wants a piece of Jordan,” says DePorter.

Gone, Gone and Away
When DePorter heard that the Paul Konerko grand slam ball from game two of the 2005 World Series between the White Sox and Houston Astros was in a bank vault, he convinced its owner it would be better honored in a public display. The ball was soon delivered via armored car.

Eye Spy
Along with his seventh-inning stretch rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and “holy cow” catchphrase, broadcaster Harry Caray was well-known for his oversize glasses—which, DePorter points out, got bigger and bigger over the years.

Ring Bling!
At the grand opening of the museum, Ron Harper placed two of his Bulls championship rings in the display case, alongside rings from Blackhawk Bobby Hull, Ron Santo, Hall of Fame football coach Marv Levy and Harry Caray himself.

Remember When?
The 1908 Cubs mask and glove aren’t just significant historically; they’re from the last time the team won a World Series. “When the Cubs do win again, it’ll be the biggest moment in sports history,” says an ever-optimistic DePorter.

Popping Corks
While DePorter, with the help of an X-ray machine, cleared Sammy Sosa’s name in regards to rumors of a corked bat in 1998, that wasn’t the case with Sosa’s infamous 2003 bat—which split during a game with the Tampa Bay Rays. DePorter paid $16,567 for it at auction.

The Shirt Off His Back
Like almost half of the items on display, this 1972 jersey from Cubs legend Ron Santo is on loan from a private collector, who, in this case, contacted DePorter when he heard about the museum. But don’t be surprised to see such on-loan artifacts rotate out from time to time. “These items are like holy relics to the collectors, and they often miss them,” says DePorter. No surprise there.

Case Study
A sports fan since he was a boy—when he met many of the pro athletes who stayed at the Hyatt on Wacker, which his father ran—DePorter supports all of the major Chicago teams. That diplomacy is on display in this exhibit of prominent jerseys. But there’s no denying that the restaurant is often associated with the Blackhawks, who stopped in to celebrate their Stanley Cup wins in both 2010 and 2013. “We’re like party headquarters for them,” says DePorter.

Foul Play
DePorter is the first to admit he went “a bit insane” during the live Internet auction of the infamous foul ball that some say cost the Cubs their first World Series in more than a century back in 2003. But, he says, “I wasn’t going to let it go by.” So what do you do with a $113,824 piece of sports history? If you’re DePorter, you get an Academy Award-winning special effects guy to blow it up outside Harry Caray’s River North restaurant in front of a packed crowd, including the Today show and Katie Couric. Whether or not the ball’s destruction got rid of the curse hanging over the Cubs remains to be seen.

For a city as sports-obsessed as Chicago, a temple to our athletic triumphs has been a long time coming. But the new 8,000-square-foot Chicago Sports Museum (Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., 312.202.0500), part of the new Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch restaurant, was well worth the wait. We took a tour of the museum with the president of Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group, Grant DePorter.