A legend has passed away today. Sparky Anderson will be remembered for his World Series Championships in Cincinnatti and Detroit, but I will never forget my very first MLB game in 1977 between the Cubs and the Reds. Sparky was managing The Big Red Machine and I got to see the legend with my own eyes. I was only 9 at the time, but even then, I knew that I was witnessing a part of history, a legend.
As a nine year old, I was all about baseball. I lived and breathed it. I collected baseball cards and made trades like a GM would, using my keen insight and intuition to determine what players would hold their value and who I could afford to part with. Back then, I could rattle off every stat for every player at any given time. There wasn’t much about baseball that I didn’t know at that age. I only wish I could have played the game as well as I would have liked, becoming a professional baseball player was my dream, but that’s another story. Anyway, I was really into the Reds at the time. The Big Red Machine was the ultimate team, in my opinion. Sparky Anderson was the Manager, arguably the best in his time. There was something special about him, you could just tell. He was like the grandfather everyone wished they had. I remember having his baseball card and refusing to part with it. It didn’t matter that I had duplicates, because I knew that I had something special. I had Sparky Anderson. Well, my child’s intuition was correct in that assumption. Sparky turned out to be a Hall Of Famer and deservedly so. When I saw Sparky in person while attending the game between the Cubs and the Reds at Riverfront Stadium, I was in awe.
At the time, I don’t think I fully appreciated his managing prowess as I do now, but intuitively, I knew. It was an honor to be in his presence.
Sparky Anderson exemplified what a Manager should be. He was a kind-hearted man and a fierce competitor. He was wise, intelligent, and a keen strategist. He understood the game of baseball and knew what it takes to win. He was a leader and a motivator. Sparky Anderson was beloved by all, especially me, because Sparky was the kind of coach that I would want. Even though I am a Diehard Cubs Fan, have been since 1978, there will always be a special place in my heart for Sparky. God bless his soul. He will be missed.