Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Chicago Sports Museum Fields a Strong Lineup of Highlights -- Museum Review

Museum / Attraction Review

Chicago Sports Museum
Water Tower Place, Chicago
Visited June 2, 2014

Monday, the day after an exciting moment in Chicago sports history, albeit one that did not end happily--regardless, I salute the Blackhawks on another sensational season and playoff run--I had occasion to be at Water Tower Place.

Following a Broadway in Chicago Backstage TV show taping, taking place at the Broadway Playhouse, I decided to explore the new Chicago Sports Museum (website) on the mall's seventh floor.

This is the name of a collection of memorabilia owned by forces behind the Harry Caray's Restaurant Group--including owner/president Grant DePorter--with the "museum" housed adjacent to Harry Caray's 7th Inning Stretch restaurant.

Admission to the Chicago Sports Museum is complimentary for diners, but $6 a la carte. 

I decided to have lunch, and while I both overpaid and over ate--a fancy cheeseburger and a maple bacon milkshake--the meal was delicious and the museum was worthwhile.

Though I was a bit cynical about what seems like an overt tourist trap--even if much of its appeal is for Chicagoans--I can't deny that I enjoyed my visit.

And even though there is a good amount of memorabilia that can be freely seen within the restaurant itself, plus a wonderful long hallway of historic sports related newspapers that can also be walked without paid entry, there is enough within the turnstile to be of value to any Chicago sports fan (or curious out-of-town visitor).

Kids--and adults--should really love the Chicago Sports Museum, as about half the gallery space is devoted to interactive games for no extra charge.

One can pretend to be Frank Thomas facing a picture, Scottie Pippen taking jump shots, Patrick Kane taking slapshots, a quarterback throwing passes or a goalie protecting the net.

I am neither a gamer nor much of an athlete but these interactive video offerings were quite well-made and a good bit of fun.

Much of the rest of the gallery space consists of signed jerseys and memorabilia with much of the equipment  game-worn and in some of it--like Leon Durham's jersey from Game 5 of the 1984 NLCS--is directly connected to famed, if sad, moments in Chicago sports history.

The museum even houses the remnants of the famed "Bartman ball," which DePorter had purchased at auction and had blown-up. (Properly, Mr. Bartman is never mentioned by name in the museum.)

I also played a round of video trivia and even sat in a makeshift broadcast booth calling a game à la Harry did. (Video here but for whatever reason there is no audio.) 

To its credit the museum also has some good informational displays, including ones on Sammy Sosa's famed corked bat, changes in the make-up of a major-league baseball over the years and the mystery of the missing game-winning puck from the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Many great athletes--Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Greg Maddux, Patrick Kane, even the Sting's Karl Heinz-Granitza and loads more--factor into the museum's holdings, though for some reason I didn't see Mssrs. Butkus and Sayers represented (among others). And the White Sox seem a bit under-represented.

Though there is a lot of good stuff in a relatively small space--what is here would be among the main highlights of a larger, pricier museum--there are a few things that would make it a bit better.

These include displays more fully depicting the history of each of the city's pro teams, a section saluting great moments had by local universities and perhaps some on-demand video kiosks where one can watch highlights of MJ, Sweetness, Mr. Cub and more.

For though there is nostalgia aplenty at the Chicago Sports Museum, and a good bit of fun to be had--both of which make $6 or something off the menu a worthy value--what could really make it a museum-quality museum would be a bit more in the way of educational content.

And viewable game action.

For while seeing genuine Michael Jordan artifacts, or trying on a replica Refrigerator Perry Super Bowl ring--supposedly the largest ever made--is pretty cool for a fan like me, so to would be reliving "The Shot" or one of Fridge's rumbles into the end zone.

Still, the Chicago Sports Museum is considerably more of a winner than at least one of the teams it substantively represents.

(All photos by Seth Arkin; please do not re-post without attribution.)

No comments: