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Sunday, September 27, 2015

End of the Road: Fergie Jenkins and Frank Lloyd Wright

Amber stands in front of a statue of legendary Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, located on Michigan Avenue

Rain threatened to come down on Saturday, Sept. 5, our last full day in Chicago. While precipitation is never appreciated when one is on vacation, it's even more worrisome when you have tickets to a baseball game. And not just any game, but a visit to one of baseball's two hallowed shrines, Wrigley Field. Fortunately, the skies cleared as the morning progressed, and by the start of the game at 1:20pm, we couldn't have asked for better weather...well, my sun-hating wife could have, but at least our seats were shaded. 

Arriving at Addison Station on the Red Line, we were greeted by a statue of Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins:

Outside the entrance to Wrigley Field, which opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park (it was given its current moniker in 1926). It's the oldest National League ballpark, and only Boston's Fenway Park (1912) is older. I saw a game at Fenway in 1998; today would be my first visit to Wrigley:

The view from our seats on the upper deck along the third-base line, with the famed ivy-covered outfield walls clearly in sight:

The surrounding rooftops in Wrigleyville. Once upon a time, small groups of people would stand on these rooftops, enjoying cookouts and watching games for free. Starting in the 1990's, however, like so much else in American life, the atmosphere became commercialized, as some building owners put up bleachers and began charging spectators:

The Cubs take the field. Their opponents this day were the Arizona Diamondbacks:

The center field scoreboard:

The Cubs in action. Pitching was Jake Arrieta, who in his previous start threw a no-hitter on August 30 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the ending of which I caught on TV in our hotel room in Billings, Montana. Arrieta wasn't quite as sharp as that in this game, but he still shut out the Diamondbacks on only six hits over eight innings as the Cubs eventually went on to win 2-0:

Unfortunately, we never learned her answer:

I didn't intend for the photo to turn out like this, but I like the result:

One of Wrigley Field's hallowed traditions (at least since 1982, when it was begun by Harry Caray) is the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" by a guest conductor (after Caray died in early 1998). On this day it was none other than Fergie Jenkins (see statue photo above). In his 19-season Major League Baseball career, Jenkins won 284 games, struck out 3192 batters and won the National League Cy Young Award in 1971 (the first Canadian and Cubs pitcher to do so). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. As a singer, Jenkins was a great pitcher:

Cubs win! As I write this, Chicago is in position to clinch the second NL wild card spot, 5½ games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates and 9½ games ahead of their closest pursuers, the San Francisco Giants. If the Cubs make it into the postseason, it will be their first playoff appearance since 2008. Of course, Chicago hasn't been to a World Series since 1945, and the last time the Cubs won the championship was way back in 1908 (the crosstown rivals White Sox ended their 88 year-long title drought in 2005):

A good day for the Cubs, a great day for the Kaminoge family. Seeing a game at Wrigley Field is like a pilgrimage to Mecca, something that every baseball fan should do at least once in their lifetimes. A Saturday afternoon on a warm September day, enjoying the fresh air, beer and hot dogs, seeing the home team win, is definitely a Ken Burns kind of moment. One day, if and when I have the time and money to do so, I'd like to visit all 30 MLB ballparks in one season, on another epic road trip across the U.S. and into Canada:

Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks:

Seeing the Cubs at Wrigley was pretty much the culmination of our quick visit to Chicago. That evening, I took a few pictures of the city skyline from our hotel rooftop:

The next day (Sunday, Sept. 6), we left Chicago, with our final destination, Falls Church, in sight. I'd intended on stopping off at Thomas Edison's childhood home in Milan, Ohio. Unfortunately, I didn't program the GPS carefully enough, and we ended up driving off-course. It wasn't until we were approaching Indianapolis that I realized we were heading in the wrong direction. By the time the necessary course corrections were made, it was too late to reach Milan. So we drove instead toward our last sightseeing stop before reaching Washington, D.C., getting as far as Cambridge, Ohio before finding a hotel and calling it a night. On the way, I introduced Amber and Pamela to yet another American icon, White Castle (this one on the outskirts of Columbus, OH). Truth be told, I've always found it hard to understand what all the fuss is about, but then again I never had a case of the munchies in a small Midwestern city:

On the last day of our epic road trip, we drove on, leaving Ohio, crossing a short stretch of West Virginia and entering Pennsylvania:

Our last stop before Falls Church was a late addition to the itinerary, made after purchasing a book on famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright at the Rookery Building in Chicago. Fallingwater, one of Wright's most famous designs, is located in Mill Run, in the hills of western Pennsylvania. We arrived for a 1:30 tour of the house, which lasted an hour. The home was partly constructed over a small waterfall, and was described by Time magazine as the architect's "most beautiful job". A National Historic Landmark since 1966, it's well worth a visit. Just as Wrigley Field is a shrine for baseball fans, Fallingwater is a must-see for anyone interested in architecture. I don't know enough about the subject to pretend I understand the significance of the horizontal and vertical lines, and of the way the house was built into the bedrock, but I do appreciate beauty, and Fallingwater is a gem. I'm now facing the challenge of how to reconcile Fallingwater with Bangkok's Jim Thompson House when the time comes to design my dream retirement home:

Pennsylvania, Maryland and finally Virginia. We reached Falls Church in the early evening on Labor Day, tired but glad to be in our new, but familiar, digs (we're staying at the same complex as the last time we were in this area, though in a different building). 12 days, 3200 miles, 14 states. Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Chicago and Fallingwater. I did 99% of the driving and enjoyed every moment behind the wheel (except those times when the oil lamp would come on). My wife and daughter might beg to differ, but I'm looking forward to the next opportunity to be on the road in the U.S.A.


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