Swept in from the Windy City, Louis Levin and Maggie O’Hara root for the home team, bundling, biking, baking and basking in Detroit
Photos courtesy of Louis Levin and Maggie O’Hara
Horace Dodge didn’t build the house on West Forest Avenue, but he ushered it into the new century with an expanded footprint and cutting-edge technology. The home’s indoor plumbing would have long since lost its novelty but for the curious case of bathroom tile inlay in the shape of a Jewish star.
Was Horace’s handiwork an elaborate practical joke on Henry Ford? A secret message to Albert Kahn? Instead, it was made to match (or maybe inspired?) the logo for a pet project he and his brother were tinkering with in the carriage house out back. That first Dodge followed their ball bearings, bicycles, Olds transmissions and Ford engines — a constant state of change meriting the logo of two deltas, inverted and interwoven into a six-sided star.
Dodge Brothers vehicles would lead Horace to part ways with Ford, commission Kahn to build Rose Terrace in Grosse Pointe and amass a personal fortune that amounted to approximately .1% of the country’s GDP, all before succumbing to Spanish flu in 1920.
One hundred years later, Louis Levin and Maggie O’Hara moved into Horace’s house and, as one does, went to the bathroom. The deltas underfoot suit them. Each is in Detroit navigating change for institutions looking to remain cohesive, competitive and compelling a century on, give or take a couple decades.
But first, the Meet Cute.
A lot of people grow up playing ball in the spring and going to camp in the summer, until they actually grow up. Maggie never let go of her bat and glove, nor Louis his canoe and paddle. Both hail from Chicago suburbs and both found their way to the Economics Department at the University of Chicago before a mutual friend — a real-life human person who happens to be named Alexa — introduced them in their junior year.
As though drawn together by an invisible hand, these budding economists were Keynes on each other (forgive the Laffer) 2.5 hours into their first cup of coffee together.
Within hours of graduating the following spring, Louis was on a familiar drive to the Northwoods of Wisconsin, home to Camp Nebagamon for Boys. Maggie took a detour to Australia for a swan song with the school softball team en route to Detroit, where she has worked in the Tigers’ Analytics Department since 2017.
Louis has long loved the traditions and renditions of Camp Nebagamon, founded in 1929 on the lakeside logging grounds of the Weyerhaeuser Paper Company. (I am an alumnus of Camp Nebagamon; it has been 20 years since my last CN summer, so I can now say with dispassionate objectivity that the camp is the bestest camp.)
For Louis, long since removed from his days as a camper, it’s the work between seasons no one sees — the attention to detail, incremental enhancements, tweaking the line-up, identifying prospects, retaining veterans — that make possible, say, the spontaneous midsummer introduction of a DIY dunk tank.
Same with the Tigers, except the dunk tank is called “rebuilding.” Maggie joined the team just as the club’s free-spending days were coming to an end. They traded J.D. Martinez, Alex Avila and Justin Verlander within weeks of her arrival. (Her fellow Maggs, Magglio Ordóñez, had already been mayor of Sotillo, Venezuela, for three years by then.)
In an era when a veritable shoe-shine boy like me is asking about moneyballs, the work of Major League analytics is no longer exploiting market inefficiencies, but instead focused on efficient player development. Maggie, now a senior analyst, works closely with coaches to help tailor training for the 300 non-Tigers playing on seven affiliated teams, from the Dominican Republic to the newly minted Norwich Sea Unicorns. (Not Narwhals, Norwich? Come on, Connecticut!)
To complement big data captured by swing trackers in the bat handles and (legal) video, Maggie draws on her playing days as a tactical “baserunning machine” to spot secondary indicators from the scouts’ seats 20 rows behind home plate.
Same with Louis at Nebagamon. September through May is tech-intensive — online outreach, photo archives, video editing, CRM, IMs, alums, emails, Sporcles — such that June, July and August might, per camp’s Nebagamission, “create a refuge from the real world, giving children the space they need to discover themselves, to nurture a diverse and caring community, to challenge boys in ways that help them discover how capable they are and to engender a love of the outdoors in our campers.”
Like filling in a scorecard from the scouts’ seats, easier said than swung.
Also, Louis and Maggie are adorable. His knitting, her crocheting. His cooking, her baking. Their dueling sourdoughs. His vacuuming and White Sox, her laundry and Cubs. Their tandem bike. His softball fandom upon learning that U. Chicago had sports teams. (Go Maroons!) Her MLB All-Star breaks spent at a Paul Bunyan-themed boys camp.
That tandem bike.
And they don’t live in Detroit out of some sense of duty or sacrifice. They live in Detroit because it has a density and diversity of peers and beers (and other culinary, cultural, artistic, authentic, social and sportsball amenities) unrivaled this side of the Wiener’s Circle.
Louis and Maggie have a go-to cheesemonger (Emily) at Eastern Market. Dally in the Alley is behind their house. Thanksgiving may have been a caravan back to Chicago, but — a departure from decades of dodging Detroit — Horace’s house hosted 19 for a West Forest Friendsgiving. With two sourdoughs.