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This week's Chicagoan: Margie Lawrence, baseball artist

"Ted Williams was a handsome man; that's why he pops up in my art a lot."

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A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.

"I grew up right down the street from Wrigley Field. My school was a block and a half away. It was pretty cool in the springtime when they opened the windows—we could hear the organ and crowd and everything. I wanted to be in Little League, but back then they didn't allow girls.

"I used to go to 35 games a season. Now I go to five or six. They've priced me out. Just to sit in the bleachers on a Saturday on a July day will cost you $80. Before, baseball was accessible to everybody. And on Fridays or Wednesdays, I can't remember which day, ladies got in for free. No longer does that happen.

"I was an actress for 20 years, and then I went back to school for computer graphics. At that time, the Cubs were doing well. I met some people in the bleachers and started hanging out with them, and I was having the time of my life. I thought: 'Here I am in art school. I love this baseball team and the hospitality of the bleachers.' And the two connected, and I started doing baseball imagery.

"Ted Williams was a handsome man; that's why he pops up in my art a lot. He was crazier than all get-go. He had a foul mouth. Oh, man, he had a potty mouth. He was probably a borderline personality. But he was a really good baseball player, and he was really handsome. He was really obsessed with hitting. Lousy in the outfield. He couldn't catch a ball for the life of him. Reminded me of some of the Cubs. You know, like Alfonso Soriano, who's a great hitter, but if a ball came his way, it'd hit him on the head before he'd catch up.

"I always take commissions. Favorite baseball players, portraits of people, their pets, something to match the couch. I'm an art slut. Without sponsors and people who buy art, there'd be no art. My father used to say, 'Artists are dreamers, and what they dream about most is money.' Give the people what they want.

"One of the first things that I'll do when I sell a bunch of art is make a journey to the Baseball Hall of Fame, look through their archives, work with them, because they have such weird shit. They have Ty Cobbs's false teeth. Give me a week, I'll find something to draw.

"Yes, I have met some of my heroes. I met Buck O'Neil. He was an old Negro Leaguer—the first black coach to be in Major League baseball. I met him at a documentary about Ronnie Woo Woo. He was kind, and he patted me on the tushie. He must have been in his mid-90s at the time. He looked at my art, and he commissioned me to do a portrait of him for the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, and then the son of a bitch died on me.

"And I met Bob Feller, who's a famous pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. I showed him a painting I had done of him and his family called Baseball Gothic, 'cause they're in overalls in front of a barn, and he's like, 'You didn't do that,' and I'm like, 'Yes, I did, Mr. Feller. Even though I'm a girl, I like baseball.'"

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