Friday, November 05, 2010

The Spark that Set the Flame

Sparky. I grew up only with the legend of the man. Sure, I vaguely remember the Tigers uniform and the 84 World Series, but his Reds days were over by the time my child brain was ripe enough for memories. He led those Tigers to victory just as Pete was returning to Cincinnati, before Pete's sports gambling days, before the wishbone C was disgraced, before my memory was capable of more than vagueness.

But I grew up on the legend of the Big Red Machine. Sparky in the Tigers uniform wasn't the same man as the Reds legend. Sparky in the Tigers uniform was just an old man whose baseball card showed an Old English D on his breast.

Of course years later, both Sparkys are a legend, and both are vague childhood memories. The Big Red Machine seems like a myth to me, just as the legend of Daedalus and his labyrinth. Free agency is Icarus, free agency flew the Big Red Machine too close to the sun, and Sparky with the wishbone C fell into Detroit.

We can be sure that the baseball gods welcome Sparky with open arms into that magical cornfield in Iowa.