With that in mind, he started Major League Models, working out of his suburban Chicago home to render stunningly precise miniatures of the game's storied stadiums. Thus far the single, self-taught Wolf has created six works, spending several months on each. Guided by photos and blueprints, he constructs the skeletons of basswood, carves Masonite stands, then adds gates, railings, working lights and other features. The effect is dramatic. Says Jim Murphy, 52, who paid $21,000 for the faux Wrigley Field in his Chicago bar: "Steve's an artist. People are mystified as to how he does it."
Wolf began sketching ballparks as a boy—often in school—to the point, he says, that "it got me into a bit of trouble." He graduated to cardboard models but dropped the hobby and after high school played guitar gigs and worked in a print shop. In 1990, however, while weeping over the demolition of the old Comiskey Park (home to his beloved Chicago White Sox) Wolf had an epiphany. An unfinished Comiskey now sits in his garage, but he later sold Murphy the Wrigley model and began attracting collectors. Wolf grew so consumed by his sideline that the printer fired him in 1996—after which he made ballyards his business.
Though he builds them, buyers don't always come; he still moonlights as a guitarist. But for Wolf the thrill's in the doing, and the appreciation of aficionados. "The ultimate compliment," he says, "is when someone says it looks like the real thing."
Fenway Park in Boston is one of baseball's great cathedrals. Babe Ruth pitched there; Ted Williams hit there. Now it sits in the middle of Steve Wolf's living room. Not the original, of course, but a 5'-by-6' model that Wolf, 48, handcrafted in meticulous detail, down to the 33,420th seat. "The American ballpark," he says, "is the most overlooked piece of architectural history in this country."