Thunder Matt's Saloon at the Cubs Media Social: "I Thought I Saw Juan Pierre"

January 24, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

Friday, January 19th, 2007. The Cubs Media Social at the Hilton.

What a beast. Insatiable. Hungry. And horny. There was bloodshed, tears and alcohol. And that was just our encounter with Mickey Morandini.

The whole day at work leading up to the event dragged on slower than Aramis Ramirez running out a flyball.

"Is it 3 yet?" I would shout over my cubicle to my running mate, Thomas ‘Tommy’ Buzanis.

"You shut your mouth and get back to work," he would snap back.

Finally, like the nervous kid in the "Hot For Teacher" video waiting for the bell to ring, we sprang to action at 3PM and we were off to meet our destiny. Giddy as two school girls who have just glimpsed me bare-chested for the first time, we hopped into a cab and made our way towards the Hilton Towers.

Making our way through the throngs of fat guys in Nomar jerseys and overweight children with greasy palms clogging up the lobby was no easy task. Ascending the stairs toward the ballroom we confidently handed the majestic looking woman (actually she was quite plain and old) our passes and stepped into the ballroom. Nothing too special at this point. Just a nice sized cocktail reception room, with a buffet line set up on the left wall and two small bars set up on the right. We immediately head to the right. 2 Bud Lights sir. Oh, you accidentally gave us 3? Not a problem sir, as Tommy Buzanis can double fist alcohol like his name was Rod 'Shooter' Beck.

We take our position on the left hand side of the room. Prime people watching territory. Lots of media types along with their kids, but this is an invite only affair. Shit, is that Jeff Samardzija? Yes it is. We’d recognize those flowing locks anywhere. There’s Santo sitting down. Stands to reason he would sit since he has fake legs. We’ll wait to make our move on the legend. These beers are going down nicely. Another round if you will. And of course, my digital camera is on the fritz. Damn you technology. Tommy makes a mad dash towards the gift shop for a disposable camera. What am I, in college in 1998? Better than a camera phone we reason. $25 for a disposable camera. Is that even legal?

Wait, there's Carlos Zambrano. Tommy wastes no time in making his move.

"Hey Carlos, how bout Beckham going to the MLS?" Tommy asks. Carlos says something to the effect of "Yeah, that’s cool." Tommy sees his in. "We’ll have to go watch a game sometime." Carlos walks off. I chide Tommy. "You’ll have to go watch a game sometime? With Carlos Zambrano? Really? Can I come?"

Then, all of the sudden, angels from up high began to sing and the sea of humanity parted. We bore witness to the man himself in the flesh. Thunder Matt Murton. He's the Christie Brinkley to our Clark Griswold. The encounter is chronicled below.

From there it is just an avalanche of Cubs, past and present. Lets go down the list of players and legends that we talked to, photographed, laughed with and marveled at. Tommy will help me with the commentary.

Matt Murton
Tommy: Thunder Matt lived up to the hype. At first, I was nervous that because he seemed distant and difficult to talk to. Turns out he just thought that Len Kasper was Juan Pierre. He quickly apologized saying, “Sorry, I thought I saw Juan Pierre”. I chanted his nickname – Thunder Matt – each time I walked past him. Each time he looked back with a look that can only be described as “positive bewilderment”. Overall, very friendly and very red.
Chaim: I gave him my business card with this website on it. He may be reading this. If so, he is surely horrified . I told him that in order for the nickname 'Thunder Matt' to catch on he may need to just start referring to himself as Thunder Matt around the locker room and talking about Thunder Matt in the third person to all media within earshot . He actually seemed to kind of like the nickname. After the brief Juan Pierre mishap, we settled into a nice conversation with him about breaking out and earning his nickname.

Tommy, Dutchie and Chaim. Holy cow.

Dutchie Caray
Chaim: She took to us like her two sons back from the war. Seriously, a good twenty minute conversation. Her and Tommy are both from St. Louis so they went on and on, while I would occasionally inject a one liner or two. She introduced us to the manager of the Haray Caray’s restaurant, Gary, who gave us his card. After we got our photo with her, we told her she had to put it up in the new restaurant they are opening in Lombard. We said to just put it up by the other photos and if anyone asks, just refer to us as ‘two minor leaguers who had all the talent in the world but just never panned out.’ Sadly, she sounded like she thought that was good idea. No joke, we are sending her a framed photo. Remains to be seen if it will get past Gary.
Tommy: Men between the ages of 18-35 beware…she may want to make you her next pool boy.

Tommy, Ryno and Chaim. Lobbying for jobs in Peoria.

Ryne Sandberg
Tommy: My hero…The only the thing that made meeting him better was the trail of events that led to the encounter. First, charming the pants off of (literally) Dutchie Caray, who then proceeds to lead us to Sandberg’s wife, Margaret. Explain to her how Sandberg is “the man”. She then interrupts Sandberg who is meeting with several members of the media and explains that there are two fans who really need to meet him. Then she proceeds to put her finger over the flash of our $25 disposable camera creating a darkening affect in the subsequent photo. A huge thrill though none the less.

Dwight Smith. He bought that blazer with his 89' pennant bonus money.

Dwight Smith
Tommy: What a legend…After likely not seeing his old teammate Ryne Sandberg in 15 years, his first words are “Hey Ryno, why didn’t you make me the hitting coach down there?” His bright blue blazer screamed “I love the Cubs!” It also screamed, “no one has showered me with attention in over a decade, somebody come talk to me”. That I did - late into the night. Smith pounded seven and seven’s while lamenting the fact that “white and black players don’t party together anymore”. He then proceeded to regale me with stories of his exploits with women during his playing days finishing each statement with “awww shit – you know!”
Chaim: Yeah, he was definitely there for the free stuff. Like that old episode of The Simpsons where they have to kick Homer out of an 'all you can eat buffet'. I can just hear him using the 'I'm the Cubs all-time leader in pinch hits!' as a pickup line. Let the record show that after I left, Tommy hung around the bar in the hotel and eventually ran into a visibly intoxicated Dwight Smith in the lounge where more free booze was being served. Thus was born the line, "Awww shit - you know!"

Jody Davis. Notice Tommy double fisting in this photo! A walking Bud Light ad.

Jody Davis
Tommy: Jody Davis: Used him simply for a photo-op.
Chaim: I may have sang a bar of the "Jody Davis" song. He looked as if he wanted to beat me up.

Mickey Morandini. Somebody loan this guy a dress shirt.

Mickey Morandini
Tommy: The Dandy Little Glove Man (as Chip Caray nicknamed him) felt no need to dress up for the occasion. He was more than happy to stand in the back and pound whiskey and cokes while twirling his mullet.

Scott Eyre. 50% relief pitcher, 50% playa.

Scott Eyre
Tommy: This booze monkey was seen double-fisting towards the end of the event.

Ron Santo. Legend. Tan.

Ron Santo
Tommy: (View Photo…enough said)

Mike Bielecki. That ain't ice water in that bottle.

Mike Bielecki
Chaim: Bringing back the soul patch. This isn't the clean cut Bielecki I remember from Comcast pregames.
Tommy: “Mike, where is the after party” – “Ah, I got my daughters here…but they go to bed!” This aging rock-star made it clear that his right shoulder was good for only one thing these days – 12 ounce curls. No, he really did say that.

Len Kasper. Note to self: Don't try to 'crack jokes' as camera goes off. Camera inevitably captures your mouth in contorted position. This is undesirable to both sexes.

Len Kasper
Chaim: His casual demeanor and willingness to talk shop with us hurtles him past Chip Caray in my book. Sorry Dutchie.
Tommy: More than happy to talk baseball with a couple of fans… Got the distinct impression that he was wearing make-up… Had to feign interest when he started telling us how good recording artist Ryan Adams is.

Sean Marshall
Tommy: Eager to talk about up-coming season and other topics – Thunder Matt’s on the scene interviewers wilt under the pressure and slowly make their way back to Dutchie Caray.
Chaim: Wow, we just got crickets with this guy. So, uh...looks like I'm low on beer. You need one too Tommy? Ok, good talking to ya Sean!

Also spotted briefly: Derrek Lee, Michael Barrett, Rich Hill, Jeff Samardzija, Bob Brenly, Lou Piniella, Larry Rothschild, Randy Hundley, Ryan Dempster.

Seen during the introductions, but not at the media social: Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Alfonso Soriano.

A great time was certainly had by all. If only we had more time, I think we could have parlayed our way onto the actual team. Or at least as bat boys with Peoria (unless Dwight Smith holds that position already).

So next time you stop for a bite to eat at Haray Caray's tell em' the guys at Thunder Matt's Saloon sent ya. It may get you a free meal. More likely though, it will get you a quizzical look, an awkward silence and then they will stop serving you alcohol.

Cue the Boyz 2 Men. "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday."