The biggest draw at the Kerry Wood Strike Zone fund-raiser Wednesday night wasn't one of the star athletes -- it was Mark Cuban.
Fans swarmed outside 10Pin Bowling Lounge, 330 N. State, and when Cuban stepped outside they rushed him for autographs. "I can't really say anything," he told reporters when asked about his bid to buy the Chicago Cubs. "I just love Chicago."
It was the fifth annual fund-raiser hosted by Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and his teammates, and it drew nearly 500 attendees who paid $10,000 per lane to be paired with celebrity players. Other guests paid $500 each just to watch the match-ups.
"Mark heard about the event and we traded e-mails," explained Kerry's wife Sarah Wood, who spent a year planning the party. "The great thing about it is that he's a Cubs fan like everybody else. I think he wants to get a taste of our Cub Nation over here."
Bowling teams had the chance to handpick their players for extra cash at a pre-game auction. The leading bidder, Graham Allen, paid $3,800 for Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa, who had hit a grand slam earlier that day in a game against the Astros.
"I'm riding high tonight," said DeRosa. "But I'm a little worried. The guys have been talking me up because I was on a bowling league in 7th grade."
DeRosa turned out to be a great pick; his team won the tournament. Another bidder pledged $3,600 for Cuban. "You wasted your money," Cuban joked, getting a cheer from partygoers (although he wound up bowling pretty well). Pitcher Ryan Dempster was a crowd favorite; he wore a tight polyester shirt and bellbottoms to look like Woody Harrelson's character in "Kingpin."
Totally lost in translation: right fielder Kosuke Fukudome, who had never seen a bowling game before.
Gov. Blagojevich came with his 12-year-old daughter Amy, a major fan who likes to call pitches when she watches games with her dad. "We've gone to eight or nine Cubs games this year," said the gov.
"Ten," she corrected him. "She's a legit fan," he laughed. "She'll call a squeeze play or a slider. She knows their entire pitching repertoire."
The party raised about $360,000, which is being matched in a state grant by the governor, to benefit the Organic Food Project. The money will go to supply healthy lunches to students at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School, 2625 N. Orchard, for a year.