The Dead Man delivered, as expected. And so did many other stars appearing at the annual Chicago Sports Spectacular in November at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill.
WWE superstar Mark William Calaway, best known by his ring name The Undertaker and long nicknamed The Dead Man, was one of the most popular, most sought-after signatures and photo-ops at the star-studded, three-day show that also featured Magic Johnson, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jon “Bones” Jones, Mike Singletary, Brian Urlacher, Reggie Jackson, Dick Butkus, Ryne Sandberg, Lou Brock, and a host of former Chicago White Sox stars, particularly from the team’s 2005 World Series title.
“The show went very, very well,” said Rhonda Adelstein, who runs the show with her husband Mitch. “We had tremendous crowds, especially on Saturday when Magic, Kareem and The Undertaker appeared. I never saw the line end for hours. We were nonstop for about seven hours Saturday (selling autograph and photo-op tickets), without any stops or breaks.
“We had a lot more (customers) there on Saturday than a normal Saturday. It was at least double the crowd we’re used to getting.”
The Saturday lineup also featured Bo Jackson, Tim Brown, Marcus Allen, Wilson Contreras, Andre Rison, Warren Moon, Billy Sims, Magglio Ordonez, Paul Pierce, Clinton Portis, Jan Stenerud, Tom Glavine, Ozzie Smith, Bobby Thigpen, Ben Zobrist, Harold Baines, William Perry, Andre Dawson and Fred Biletnikoff, among others.
“We knew it was going to be very busy Saturday … it really was amazing how many people were getting (autograph and photo-op) tickets,” Adelstein said.
Due to demand for The Undertaker, a second photo-op booth was opened, which never happens.
“Overall, I was very happy with the show. Friday was solid, Saturday was packed, and Sunday may have been a little light, with football on (TV) and the big headliners all (appearing) on Saturday, but all in all (it was) a good show for us, and hopefully for the dealers in the room too,” said Brian Schwartz, the CEP/President of Schwartz Sports Memorabilia, Inc.
“I was pleasantly surprised how well Magic Johnson drew in his first time at this show in well over a decade and then feeding off that a strong showing from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as they fed off each other, even doing 50 dual photo-ops. While The Undertaker was the top draw, the 2005 White Sox drew solid crowds on Friday, and the (former Bears’ trio of) Urlacher, Butkus and Singletary all had a strong showing, despite all signing recently, showing the demand is there for those guys.”
Schwartz added: “Overall, the show seemed well organized and well attended. I haven’t personally heard any of the complaints of years past regarding lines, calling numbers, etc., so (it was) good to see (the show promotor has) taken past advice and improved those aspects of the show. Having a second photo-op booth was wise and a huge help on Saturday when there were a record number of photo-ops sold.”
The Friday lineup featured Jose Contreras, Bobby Jenks, Juan Uribe, Pablo Ozuna, Ken Harrelson, Greg Walker, Ross Gload, Raul Casonova, Joe Crede, Gary Peters, Ozzie Guillen, Dominik Hasek, Roquan Smith, David Montgomery and others.
“The (former) White Sox players drew very well,” Adelstein said. “A lot of the guys did some very big number (of sales).”
Uribe was one of the most popular former Sox signers.
The Sunday lineup featured Eric Davis, Dusty Baker, Cecil Fielder, Jason and Jeremy Giambi, George Hendrick, Dale Murphy, Bobby Bonilla, Willie Roaf, Jody Davis, Marv Levy, Lee Smith, Bill Madlock, Ron Kittle and Willie Hernandez, plus Hollywood stars Henry Winkler, Erik Estrada, Anson Williams and Donny Most, among others.
Adelstein said Singletary was one of the most popular signers, especially when asked to include the “Monsters of the Midway” inscription.
Lou Brock also was very popular among collectors.
Shawn Kemp was among a few scheduled signers who did not appear, marking the third consecutive show he has been promoted to appear but ultimately is a last-minute cancelation.
“This was a very diverse show, with all sports represented, plus pro wrestling and MMA with Jon ‘Bones’ Jones,” who is the reigning and two-time undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Adelstein said. “Bones sold very well.”
The next Chicago Sports Spectacular is scheduled for March 13-15, 2020.Tickets go on sale in January. There also will be a Chicago Sports Spectacular Nov. 20-22, 2020.
“We had a nice assortment of dealers and memorabilia,” for sale at the November show, Adelstein said. “There will be some new dealers (setting up at the March show) with some unusual items (for sale).”
R. Todd Williams of Williams Sports Memorabilia said the Friday and Saturday crowds were the best he has ever seen. Plus, he had his best-ever Friday and Saturday for sales.
“The Undertaker no doubt brought out a lot of people who normally don’t come to this show,” Williams said. “I had some really good sales at the show. My sales were across the board, a little bit of everything.
“It was a really good show and Chicago continues to be a super strong collector’s market. I’ve never had a bad show in Chicago. This was probably my second-best ever, only behind the show immediately after the Cubs won the World Series (in 2016).”
Photos courtesy of Rick Firfer