Of Cabbages and Kings: Cubs win? Wow!

<p>The marquee at Wrigley Field flashes the Cubs Win sign after the Chicago Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves 5-1 Sunday, Oct. 5, 2003 to advance in the playoffs.</p>

A baseball fan goes to Wrigley Field for its quaint charm, not to see the Chicago Cubs win.

But my wife and I got both last Friday afternoon. With gloves and scarves, in 52 degrees, we watched the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5.

The game had the full inventory of baseball moments.

In Bull Durham, the best comedic encomium to baseball, Susan Sarandon evokes the “church of baseball.” If the game is a hallowed organic thing that blooms every spring, Wrigley Field is its shrine. Reflecting on the Cubs’ losing ways, the late Chicago columnist Mike Royko said that Wrigley was where good players went to die.

Starting with Camden Yards in the 1990s, Major League ballparks have tried to emulate Wrigley’s intimacy while becoming blaring entertainment centers. At Wrigley there is no Jumbotron. A guy inside the center-field scoreboard operates it by hand. The outfield wall is covered by ivy.

Wrigley’s close confines evoke an era faraway from 2014 America of technology-isolated people. No other baseball stadium blends so quickly with its residential neighborhood. There is seating on the roofs of adjacent apartment houses.

As we descended the El train, we heard the ballpark organ, another throwback to gentler, more measured times. The Cardinals were taking batting practice as we arrived. The outfield ivy was brown, evidence of Chicago’s long severe winter.

Our seatmates were a father and son from Seattle. We remarked on the divergent coffee cultures of Chicago and Seattle. I settled for hot chocolate.

Sitting in front of us was a young woman wearing a ball glove. She plays on a girl’s league team and hopes to make the lineup upon entering Olivet College in Michigan.

Walking through the bowels of the Wrigley, one conjures generations of fans wearing styles of the past. If we could revive them, we would share our enthusiasm for the game.

666

The warm confines of Andy’s Jazz Club on downtown’s Hubbard Street were most welcome after a chilly afternoon at Wrigley. We heard the Geoff Bradfield quartet. Our neighbors at Andy’s bar were two Chicagoans who were tired of their extended winter. We heard that a lot.

Chicago was a stop on our way to New York City for the wedding of the daughter of longtime Seattle friends. This stay allowed us to take in Springfield and its Abraham Lincoln mecca as well as see two Frank Lloyd Wright homes.

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Architectural tourism is the last cheap thrill, writes Gary Kimura in his book about San Francisco, Cool Gray City of Love. Just walking through downtown, taking in the buildings that border the Chicago River is a delight.

Go a bit north and you are in Oak Park, where architectural evidence of Frank Lloyd Wright is on many blocks. With a group from the Art Institute of Chicago, we traveled a bit further afield, to the northeast to see the Muirhead Farmhouse. It is a rare opportunity to see one of Wright’s Usonian homes in a prairie setting, surrounded by farmland. A Muirhead ancestor in the 1950s reached out to Wright for a home to complement his red barns.

Dubbing the adjective Usonian was Wright’s iconoclastic way of giving his own work a national importance without using the word American.

The strong horizontal lines of the Muirhead Farmhouse blend with the landscape. Seeing the prairie from inside the home was exactly the experience Wright’s organic architecture was supposed to provoke.

— S.A.F.

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