Meet the Cubs fan who built a man cave of hope
Hope is a treasured commodity.
As handy in the middle of one of life's infinite battles as it is in cheering on a baseball club that hasn't won it all in 107 years.
Stewart McVicar knows hope.
Through hosting fundraisers at a unique Cubs-themed basement in his home, the McHenry County man has parlayed his passion for the Chicago Cubs into offering help -- and hope -- for countless others.
"Stew McVicar is one of the best fans that I know, but he is also one of the best people that I know," Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said. "What he has done to take the fan cave and turn it into a place where he can raise money and help others is just remarkable."
Stewart McVicar latched on to the Chicago Cubs as his team when his television cartoon watching as a youngster was pre-empted by a daytime WGN broadcast featuring the flamboyant announcer Harry Caray. Stew's face lights up and his voice raises a few octaves as he offers an impression of Caray's words that day: "There's a line drive, base hit! ... down the line, one run is in. Two runs are in. Another man is gonna come around to score."
Soon, the McVicars were making treks from their McHenry home to see games at Wrigley Field.
As the years passed, Stew would travel with his family on vacations to watch the Cubs play in other cities.
Just your average, devoted fan following his favorite team, right?
"There's just a lot of great Cubs fans," McVicar said. "The only way I stick out from them is because I was the crazy one who built a man cave."
And what a man cave it is. McVicar has dubbed the fancy basement "Club 400."
Club 400, to be certain, is perhaps the best place to watch the Cubs other than Wrigley Field. Old parts of the park and pictures of his heroes have been worked into McVicar's basement design.
Game-used bats and authentic jerseys frame the wall. A theater features bricks from Wrigley Field, and a 2012 game-used Wrigley Field home plate is embedded in the floor. Pictures of Stew with Cubs favorites Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Harry Caray and many others are framed along a hallway.
But Club 400 isn't just a fancy place to watch a ballgame. It's where McVicar gives back to the team he loves -- and to members of the community.
McVicar's 2014 fundraiser benefitted longtime friend Nick Sheridan of Fox Lake. Sheridan was in need of prosthetic limbs after losing parts of both legs and both arms in a bout of bacterial meningitis.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was the marquee guest as more than $30,000 was raised for Sheridan, who used his new limbs to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at McVicar's 2015 fundraiser.
Former Cubs player Kerry Wood was the honored guest in August as $35,000 was raised for the Kerry Wood Family Foundation, which supports children's programs and charities.
Early this season, McVicar learned on Facebook that lifelong Cubs fan Terry Case of downstate Lincoln was battling cancer. McVicar donated his season tickets for Case to attend a May home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and worked with the Cubs to roll out the red carpet for Case's special visit.
"He said it was one of the greatest thrills of his lifetime to be able to go onto the field at Wrigley with his daughter and to watch batting practice," said Terry's brother Dennis Case of Galesburg.
Terry passed away in August at the age of 57.
South Sider David Eagan has McVicar to thank as well. Eagan's body is a tattooed monument to the Chicago Cubs, but he lacked the funds to complete the job.
McVicar held a fundraiser, and Eagan had the work -- an aerial shot of Wrigley Field across his lower back -- done at Club 400 during a March Madness college basketball party.
In late summer, McVicar hosted a party for baseball hall-of-famer Ferguson Jenkins. Jenkins entertained the crowd with stories of the '69 Cubs, of his contract negotiations and being traded from the Cubs to the Texas Rangers. Jenkins also spoke about charity work he has done with former ballplayers.
"There's about 11 charities we support," Jenkins said. "So if you see me signing with Gaylord (Perry) or Rollie (Fingers) or Vida Blue ... we are raising money."
Said McVicar, "That's the cool thing about Fergie. He's constantly giving back. I aspire to do the same thing ... and I want to use this place to do the same."