I got my baseball education in the '70s, when Joe Garagiola and Curt Gowdy were Saturday afternoon regulars with the Game of the Week and colorful characters played the game on and off the field. Because there was no team here in Tampa Bay (or in Florida, for that matter) in those days, we formed attachments to teams located elsewhere. My brother gave his devotion to the Atlanta Braves, where Chief Noc-A-Homa held court in a tipi in the outfield and Ted Turner was, well, Ted Turner. My affection was all for the Cincinnati Reds -- one of the premier clubs of the '70s. The Big Red Machine just dominated those formative years of mine. I won quite a bit of money -- well, it was a lot to a sixth grade girl -- betting with the boys in my class who thought the Boston Red Sox would take the '75 World Series. I had the last laugh (and the lunch money) on that one.â†µ
I'm reminded of that series thanks to two baseball icons in the news today. Sparky Anderson, the manager of those iconic Reds teams, passed away today. In an era when personality was as much as part of the sport as the game itself, he contributed mightily on both counts. Sparky is a big part of why I love -- and know so much about -- baseball. R.I.P. Skipper. Thank you for the part you played in my childhood.
Today's news also brought word that Don Zimmer, the Rays senior advisor and resident sage, has been retained in that role for the 2011 season. Zim was the third base coach for the Red Sox in 1975. I love the fact that he's still, after 60-some odd years in baseball, making a contribution -- and that his experience is valued and appreciated.â†µ
Icons like Sparky Anderson and Don Zimmer don't come along often in baseball, much less any sport. Here's to them. Thank you, gentlemen.â†µ