Thursday, March 12, 2009

Baseball place No. 28: Batcolum; Alternative places No. 28A) Other sculptures dressed to impress

Chicago’s only three hours away. Will lives there. So it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with the Windy City.

And I studied art and architecture in college, so I know a lot of the city’s iconic public art.

It’s also safe to say Will and I have explored anything related to baseball in the Second City.

So imagine my surprise when Josh Pahigian directs us to something called “Batcolumn” as his spot No. 28 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Apparently, at 600 West Madison Street, there is a giant metal sculpture shaped like a bat. He even calls it “the granddaddy of all baseball sculptures,” saying it rises 100 feet and sits in front of the Harold Washington Social Security Administration building.

It was created by Swedish pop artist Claes Oldenburg. He also created a giant hot dog, clothespin, toothbrush and other common items that are commonly small.

No wonder I didn’t know about this thing. You can’t have Euro pop artists creating stuff they don’t understand. It’s as if I tried blogging about soccer.

I prefer Chicago art that, like me, dresses for the occasion when a favored team makes the World Series. That takes us to:

Alternative place No. 28A: Chicago Picasso, Art Institute lions and Grant Park Indian warriors.

Chicago went nuts in 2005 when the White Sox went to the World Series. I was pretty excited, too, as the Sox have always been sort of a secondary favorite since they snatched Tom Seaver.

Will suggested I come over before Game One to soak up some of the atmosphere around Comiskey – what we’ll always call it – take part in some of the general craziness around the Loop then watch the game with friends at a packed sports bar.

We arrived at the ballpark just after a press conference where the Houston and Chicago mayors announced their traditional goofy bet. Staffers were loading a cow painted with White Sox logos into the back of a truck. Others were handing out cool Ozzie Guillen masks.

Many of the souvenir vendors were already open, and we picked up our programs and scouted the assorted caps and pennants that we would no doubt find cheaper elsewhere.The park was abuzz with activity, from special signs being hung on fences to uniforms arriving from the cleaners.

With masks and programs in hand, Will directed me on a downtown tour of Chicago reveling in its first World Series since the Eisenhower administration.

The first stop was massive Indian statues at Grant Park. The horses were decked out in their finest pale hosiery.

Ivan Mestrovic’s warriors, known as “The Spearman” and “The Bowman,” were erected in 1928 at the Congress Plaza entrance to the park.

We checked out “The Bean,” when found the Art Institute of Chicago, where Edward L. Kemeys’ lions that guard the front steps are wearing their Sox caps.

I wondered where exactly where they came up with baseball caps to fit bronze lion statues. I can see how a talented seamstress can whip together a couple socks for the horses. But these hats were plastic and big.

Kemeys gave the Lions unofficial names. The southern one is “Stands in an Attitude of Defiance” and the northern one is “On the Prowl.” Wonder what he named his kids.

The lions have been guarding the Art Institute since 1894, and have been decked out in team attire just twice before -- 1984 for the Cubs and the following year for 'da Bears.

Then we made it over to Daley Center Plaza, where the Chicago Picasso also was wearing a Sox cap. The 50-foot sculpture, erected in 1967, is technically untitled. Should have brought Kemeys over.

The plaza was filled with people attending a Halloween event. We were walking around snapping more photos when two television cameramen saw our Ozzie Guillen masks and asked us to pose in front of the Picasso.

They asked us to jiggle the masks, then pull them away and cheer. They had us to this several times to get the shot just right. We might have been on the Fox pre-game show.

We late caught up with friends and watch the Sox smack down the Astros at an over-crowded sports restaurant. Like the statues, we were wearing our Sox caps.

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