Chuck Blatt is a diehard Chicago White Sox fan. He was a White Sox batboy for a game some 40-plus years ago. His all-time favorite player is Dick Allen. He celebrated the 2005 season when the Sox finally won the World Series.
But it’s the Chicago Cubs that have thrust Blatt into the national spotlight.
More so, the CIHCAGO Cubs, as his one remaining authentic Rawlings jersey says.
The legacy dates back 30 years to when Blatt owned Sports Fever, a sports collectibles and apparel store in downtown Chicago. He ordered 14 jerseys to sell, as the team had just changed the style of its road jersey.
All 14 arrived spelled, CIHCAGO.
They also arrived late, he recalled.
“They switched jerseys and people wanted to buy them, so I was excited that they were finally in and ready to call people who wanted them,” Blatt said.
Then he spotted the typo. “I thought, ‘You must be kidding me – I can’t sell these,’” he said. “It did take a minute to realize they were misspelled since I am bad at spelling.”
The jersey manufacturer told Blatt he could return them for properly spelled replacements.
Blatt decided to keep them, instead.
“It hit me that the Cubs were so bad they can’t even spell their jerseys correctly,” he said. “So, I spun it into a marketing story, and when it hit the papers it helped the store. I had one framed in the store and people would point at it and remember the story. I was interviewed on the radio across the country about it.”
Both Chicago daily newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, ran articles about it in 1990 – with pictures of Blatt and the error jersey.
The media blitz for Blatt and the blunder continued this summer. He appeared Sept. 1 on “What’s It Worth?” with host Jeff Foxworthy on A&E.
The show had contacted Blatt when they saw him selling one of his 14 CIHCAGO jerseys online and the producer was waiting for the right opportunity to use the story.
The segment was done via Skype.
“It was fun to film remotely, and they did a great job with the editing and production,” Blatt said. “The expert (who joined Foxworthy for the appraisal) did a good job explaining why there was value to the item.”
The show estimated the jersey’s value at $4,000.
Blatt would have sold that same jersey in 1990, if properly spelled, for $90.
“I thought that was (a) reasonable (estimated value). If it was up in an auction, it might fetch more. The expert was correct that it is the story behind it that makes it more valuable,” said Blatt, now 53 and a Chicago resident who has a long history in the sports collectibles industry. His dad, Jeff, was the former president of the now-defunct Chicagoland Sports Collectors Association and a former longtime show promoter.
The younger Blatt has not been to a card show in decades and admitted, “It would be weird to be back at a card show…The hobby has changed so much from the old days and now everything has to be authenticated. The hey-day of card collecting was a great era and I still love (vintage) cards from the 1950s to 1980s. I can see an old card and still know what year it is. I know players from the old days more than today.”
Blatt now works as the Portfolio and Marketing Manager for Advantage Management and does freelance social media marketing for Factotum Viral Marketing.
He has sold the 13 other CIHCAGO jerseys, with the first fetching $150, the lowest one of these relics has sold for. He sold one a few years ago for $3,000.
“I might keep it or sell it…if the right offer comes in; I still have the newspapers and the story behind it,” Blatt said. “As a marketer, I have used it as a tool when I have spoken to kids and college students about marketing. You can spin a story to make it a positive. After 30 years I am still getting press on the story.
“I would love to see the White Sox purchase it and display it at the park to have a friendly jab at their crosstown rivals.”
Blatt said neither of his two daughters is too interested in the Cubs relic, as they too are White Sox fans. “If I had a Lin Manuel-worn shirt or some Broadway collectible, then they would be excited,” he said.
And Blatt, well, he has never worn one of the CIHCAGO jerseys, in true White Sox fashion.
“As they said on the show, I get to use the misspelling to rub it in to Cubs fans,” he said.