Fans Wait Hours To Meet Ditka in Niles

Hundreds still enamored of Da Coach wait hours in line at Binny's in Niles to buy his line of wines and present helmets, footballs and posters to be autographed.


People came from as far away as McHenry County, and waited as long as four and a half hours in line, to meet former Bears Coach and Hall of Famer Mike Ditka Wednesday evening.

Iron Mike, as some in the crowd fondly called him, sat at a long table at Binny's Beverage Depot in Niles autographing bottles from his new line of wines from 6 to 8 p.m. Fans patiently waited in a long line that snaked through the gigantic store. 

"People started arriving at 1:30, and that's when the line began forming," said Chuck Campagna, general manager of the Binny's Beverage Depot Niles location.

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Rick Parenti, operations manager for Binny's Beverage Depot's stores, had the unenviable task of standing outside to tell people who arrived after the cutoff that they could no longer enter the line to get an autograph.

"Because of his recent medical condition, his people were adamant he could only stay two hours," Parenti said, adding that Ditka stayed five hours at the Binny's location in Arlington Heights last week. 

"To keep it to two hours, we could only take 300 people in line," Parenti explained.

Donna Drucker of Chicago's Northwest Side arrived at five minutes to 6 and was disappointed she missed the cutoff.

"Some of my friends were surprised they let him do this after he had the stroke," she said.

Ditka was mostly quiet as people in line took their turns coming up to meet him. He focused on putting his pen to the wine bottles or Chicago Bears memorabilia they proffered, signing away without talking or smiling much.

Jeff Fritz of McHenry, who was waiting in line, showed the football he was going to present to Ditka for an autograph. Next to him, a fan named John, who declined to give his last name, from Willowbrook, showed a helmet which already had the signatures of Ed O'Bradovich and Richard Dent, the Super Bowl 20 MVP.

He was hoping to add a Ditka autograph to his treasure.

Ditka was promoting his line of wines, which range from $14.99 to $49.99, and include a chardonney, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot grigio.

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