Saturday, November 6, 2010



Sparky Anderson died this last week.  It's not the end of the world.  It's not even really the end of an era (he retired from coaching a long time ago), but it sort of feels like it.

I grew up loving to cheer for the Detroit Tigers, and just loving sports in general.  They won the World Series in '84.  I still remember that year as being a favorite.  I loved the 4th grade.  Our family had a great vacation in Florida for Spring Break.  The Tigers won the Series.  The Raiders beat the 'Skins in the Superbowl.  We all love to hate the Skins!  The Olympics were in LA.  Mary Lou scored her perfect 10.  Dad and I stayed up til unreasonable hours to watch the women's volleyball team kicking a lot of teams butts.  The Georgetown Hoyas, including Patrick Ewing, had a great run during March Madness.  It felt like everyone I cheared for that year got the job done. 

I'm sure there was corruption in professional sports back then.  I know there was.  I was too young to know it, though.  All I knew was that Sparky took a bunch of non-all-stars and put them together to make a great team that was a ton of fun to cheer for.  I remember my cousin Tobey having most of the play-by-play of the series that year memorized.  He could qoute minutes of it at at time.  As cliche as it may sound, it just felt like a good time to be alive if you were a sports fan.  I was and am. 

I'm not sure if it happened in '84 or another season, but I remember going to a game in the now flattened Tiger Stadium.  Sparky was at the wall giving autographs to a bunch of kids.  I got in line.  I waited and waited.  Finally, I was the next in line and was so excited I could barely stand it.  With great expectation I held up my baseball to have him sign it.  He smiled kindly, patted me on the head, and said, "next time kid".  That was it.  Nothing.  No autograph.  All that time I waited, and all I had to show for it was a memory.  When I told my dad what happened, he pointed out that I would probaby have lost the autograph, but would always have that memory.  You know what?  He was right.  Lots of people get souvenirs.  We lose them over time, but I still rememer exactly where I was standing in Tiger stadium and can still hear his voice.

No, Sparky wasn't a god.  He was a good manager, and was well respected by many, even his opponents.  I was giving some ribbing to a patient who was wearing a White Sox hat this week.  I told him he was not allowed to hassle me because Sparky died and he had to admit that he probably liked him too.  He agreed. 

We hear it in stories all the time, the idea of going back to a simpler place and time.  Hearing of his death, took me back.  Tiger Stadium was torn down last year.  I love going to Comerica Park, but The Corner will always be the home of the Tigers in my mind.  We lost 2 of the most loved faces/voices in Tigers history this year, Ernie Harwell and Sparky Anderson.  Like I said, it's not the end of the world, but it sure feels a little sad to see an era moving on.  I finally realized, I think I'm glad I didn't get that autograph.  Dad was right.  I'm glad for the memory.