2016 Cubs Convention: Once a Cub, Always a Cub

Start your Sunday morning with a collection of stories by Cubs alumni. Jose Cardenal, Bobby Dernier, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe all will be on hand to answer questions and tell stories of their playing days. Led by Wayne Messmer.

Although Rick Sutlcliffe was unable to attend the Sunday morning panel, the trio of Jose Cardenal, Bobby Dernier and Lee Smith kept everybody entertained with stories of their playing days, as well as some off-field tales.

Dernier was able to spend the entire 2015 season in Chicago as an ambassador for the club, where he got to enjoy the season. He got to see the new clubhouse and came away wildly impressed. When he joined the team in 1984, the team had recently moved into the now-old clubhouse, which the players felt was huge in comparison to what they were previously using. He described the original clubhouse to be about as big as Smith. Dernier firmly believes that renovations of this nature are part of the key to the Cubs signing players like Jason Heyward this offseason.

Smith had his own story about the first time he walked into Wrigley Field. After landing at the airport, he went looking for a ride, fully expecting a limo to pick him up. After settling for a cab, he was dropped off at the Friendly Confines, where he then had to find the clubhouse. Holding onto all his Cubs gear, he walked into what he thought was the locker room, only to see Cincinnati Reds–the afternoon’s opponent–getting changed into their gear. Realizing he was in the wrong spot, he marched through a crowded concourse with his equipment in tow (he admitted people probably thought he was homeless given his quantity of bags) before finding the home clubhouse. Given the size of the changing room, he still wasn’t entirely certain he was in the right spot. He eventually found his locker, which he had to share with two other teammates.

Cardenal explained that he really started enjoying the game when he got to Chicago in the early 1970s, implying that up until that time it had been more of a job. He loved playing in the outfield in front of the bleacher bums, who took a liking to his abilities. Cardenal noted that he hasn’t played in Chicago in 40 years, yet he is still loved and remembered by Cubs fans.

Dernier explained that a winning mindset can often be the difference to having success. He had won in Little League and in high school. Then he got to the majors and won a World Series with the Phillies. So when he and Gary Matthews Sr. came over in a trade to the Cubs prior to 1984, the two agreed that they weren’t going to settle for losing.

A few other notes include:

Dernier recently reminded former teammate and friend Ryne Sandberg that if it weren’t for inferior players like himself, there wouldn’t be a Hall of Fame. If all the best played each other, it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

Cardenal remembers being a member of the Phillies during the 23-22 final score at Wrigley Field. What he remembers most about that game was that he was the only player on both rosters not to get into the action.

Smith played for the Angels, where current Cubs manager Joe Maddon was a bench coach. He said even in the mid-90s, more people were coming to Maddon for advice than the team’s skipper.

Dernier was always intimidated by former Cubs GM Dallas Green, but felt that he was always liked by the big figure. Smith said Green would tell it like it is, but he genuinely cared about his guys, even when they were done playing.

Dernier said the most important move for the franchise was Tom Ricketts’ takeover in 2011. He believes it’s important for the organization to have a figure at the top, and his hiring of baseball president Theo Epstein is as good as it gets. Dernier later explained that when he talks to current players, the most important thing to do is learn how Wrigley Field plays. The former outfielder said the home-field advantage with the ballpark comes in the ability to play solid defense, which can be tricky with the wind and sun.

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