Goodbye Sparky

George “Sparky” Anderson passed today. It’s a bit hard to explain the connection that Michiganders have with Sparky; it’s not like losing a family member, but it’s close, an odd way. The only real way I can relate to it is through my own experiences.

Baseball was a huge part of growing up. My father played a lot; high school, college, semi-professionally after that. I was, notoriously, at a ball field weeks after my birth. My summers were spent playing or watching my dad play, keeping the books, running the scoreboard, pigging out on concession-stand candy and popcorn. When I wasn’t at a game physically, baseball was on the television or, even more ubiquitously, the radio. And, aside from the strong voice of Ernie Harwell, there was one name that always popped on the radio, the one name that was consistant from season to season.

Sparky Anderson.

I can even hear Ernie pronouncing his name; “Spahrkeeh”. Sparky was The Coach. And to baseball players, Coach was where the bucked stopped. When Sparky made a change in the lineup, pulled Morris, or (even better) stormed the field, conversation stopped and ears craned to the radio.

When I think back to those endless summers on the diamonds, Tigers’ baseball meant two things: Ernie’s voice and Sparky’s face. Sparky Anderson was, to me and so many others, the face of summer. In my Junior year of college, I sat silently with dozens of other young men and women watching ESPN Classic, mouths open as Game 5 played out from our youths. Goose Gossage stood firm against his manager, Kirk Gibson looked over to the dugout, and Sparky mouthed (now, said, thanks to edited footage) “he wants to pitch to you.” He chuckled as Gibby paced around the plate, the chuckle of someone who knew more than anyone else at the park that he’d already won the Series. I want to believe I remember that moment from my childhood, but I don’t. But I happily layer that cold night in Kalamazoo over a slightly warmer night in October to remember a definitive moment.

Every Tigers fan, fair-weather fans included, have similar stories. Sparky factors into many of them. He was Tigers baseball; hell, he will be for some of us for years to come. But those times are passing. An era has passed.

Sparky, I wish I’d had a chance to meet you. May you rest in peace.

links for 2010-10-06

New Hobby: Book Making

I’ve been fishing around for something to do as a hobby for while. Making beer, while fun, isn’t something we have the facilities for me to do with any regularity. Plus, it’s kind of a pain in the ass (sorry brewers, it is). J– had recently turned our spare bedroom into a writing room, which freed up a corner in the den. I quickly set up a card table, decked it out with a random Ikea shelf that had been sitting in a corner, and instantly realized I had nothing to do with the space.

A couple failed trips to Riders Hobby store later, I knew I wouldn’t be building model planes or cars anymore. I really enjoyed doing it as a kid, but I felt no passion for building what are, essentially, toys. I still don’t have quite enough space or money to bump up to making model sailing boats or R/C planes, so I found myself adrift without options.

But then, due to a random conversation at work, I was Googling for more information about making books. I watched some videos, browsed the few websites that are out there, and then a planned trip to Hollanders in Ann Arbor. Soon, I found myself in possession of a bone folder and some supplies.

I spent a couple tense hours measuring, cutting, gluing, and fretting as I assembled my first book; a deckle-edged, blank-paged journal with a cover cut from a map of the world. It an amateur’s job, which goes with my skill level. But I loved it and I wanted to make more books. I love the feel of books and the fact that I can create them taps into a visceral part of me, that part that used to hang out in my dad’s shop, breaking all his tools and cutting up his stock of wood.

This past weekend, I made book number two: a conventional, lined journal with a book cloth edge. It’s constructions is slightly better than the first book; practice makes perfect, right? I had planned to spread the construction out over the weekend, but I managed to finish it the same day I bought it.

I think I’ve found a hobby.

My First Two Books; 1st one on the bottom