Last month, I ended my letter with the words “Go Reds.” Well, we know how that turned out. I managed to snag standing-room-only tickets to the final game of the National League Division Series and even though the Reds post-season was cut short by the Phillies stellar pitching, fans leaving Great American Ball Park that night did not seem dejected. Instead, a distinct note of wait’ll-next-year hope seemed to hang in the air. Which was refreshing, since Cincinnatians are not known for radiating a heck of a lot of positivity.
What got me thinking of this was two things: First, this is our annual Best of the City issue, which is all about positivity. Second, while we were sending this issue to the printer, Sparky Anderson, one of the great beacons of hope and positivity to have ever walked the streets of this town, passed away. I was lucky enough to have been introduced to Sparky at a Reds Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the new park six years ago. He didn’t know me from Adam but he shook my hand like he did and was kind enough to pose for a photo with me. It’s rare that you get the chance to meet—even fleetingly—one of your boyhood idols. That night I met two: Sparky and George Foster, the Man with the Black Bat. (I can still see Foster in one of those early-’70s playoff series stepping out of the batter’s box—again and again!—just to fluster an opposing pitcher as he started his wind-up. In my mind’s eye he always gets a hit, too.)
The Enquirer ran a marvelous remembrance of Sparky and a few days after that I was trading e-mails with one of my best friends from high school who now lives in Kansas City (and you thought Reds fans had it bad!). We were hashing over why members of the Big Red Machine, and in particular Sparky, meant so much to us still. He said he explained it to his daughter this way: Sparky cared about his players first and himself last, and it made them play harder than everyone else. He added that his daughter has no idea why kids like us idolized that team, but she understood that. It was a sentiment echoed in a lot of the news coverage. In the paper, John Erardi quoted Pete Rose putting it as only he could: “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit for Sparky.”
You may notice a few changes in the design of this issue. Or maybe you won’t; they’re subtle. But after our major overhaul two years ago, it was time to refresh a few things. The biggest change: We retired the Calendar section in the back of the book and expanded Dine, giving us more space to cover local food trends in all their glory. Let us know if it works for you or not. To paraphrase Sparky, we’ve got our faults but living in the past isn’t one of them—there’s no future in it. Onward.
Originally published in the December 2010 issue.