Last month, Big League Stew announced plans to send ZimBear — the fantastically freaky giveaway the Rays handed out on June 29 — around the world to the homes of different Stewies. After starting his journey in Don Zimmer's hometown of Cincinnati — where he enjoyed some local brews and a visit to Zim's old high school — he headed west for a look at what might be the world's most extensive collection of Don Zimmer memorabilia. But since he's a piece of Zimmer memorabilia himself, the trip was a dangerous one. Would ZimBear visit a basement in the northwest exurbs of Chicago and live to tell about it?
Name: Brad Wackerlin (@b_wackerlin)
Profession: Marketing Communications Specialist
Location: Huntley, Ill.
Favorite team: Chicago Cubs
Favorite players (past or present): Mark Grace, Don Zimmer, Cap Anson, Hack Wilson, Yogi Berra, Rabbit Maranville and Buck O'Neil (all the guys I collect)
Favorite baseball highlight: Ninth inning of the 2001 Diamondbacks-Yankees World Series, with Grace starting the game-winning rally.
Favorite game you've ever attended: I got shown on the WGN telecast at the 1999 Cubs game at Wrigley Field in which Grace got his 2,000th hit. It was during the Y2K insanity and I was holding a big G2K sign.
Who's going to win the World Series in 2012?: Not the Cubbies. I'll go with San Francisco.
What I did with ZimBear: ZimBear had a good time going through my extensive collection of Don Zimmer baseball cards and memorabilia. I have what is probably the world's most complete Don Zimmer baseball card collection. I enjoy collecting Zim because his cards span from the early 1950s to 2012, and he's had cards in pretty much every year in between (see above). I've been a huge Cubs fan for years and my first collecting passion is Mark Grace (see www.markgrace.com for that story), but Zim (collectingzim.com) is a close second. The 1989 "Boys of Zimmer" Cubs team is still my all-time favorite squad.
ZimBear and I spent the first weekend in July in my hometown of Huntley, Ill., seeing the sites, chilling by the pool and talking about the memories of a seven-decade career.
Here are some of the highlights:
ZimBear arrives in Huntley, Illinois — a quaint village of 23,000 located 47 miles northwest of Wrigley Field.
Zim catches up with one of the original "Boys of Zimmer," the first baseman of the 1989 Cubs, Mark Grace. The topic of conversation — Which is the "real" official beer of Wrigley Field?
It was hot in the Chicagoland area, so Zim took a trip to Huntley's "Stingray Bay" Pool.
Hey, this swim mask could really help a bear catch dinner!
This vintage Don Zimmer model youth fielder's glove makes an excellent spot for ZimBear to rest!
ZimBear relaxes in his comfortable leather recliner while strolling down memory lane, reading Don Zimmer's 1948 Western Hills High School yearbook.
Where is ZimBear headed next? Follow his travels at @WheresZimBear!