At birth, Sparky Anderson was 5-foot-9, 170 pounds. Those dimensions would not change. The delivery was almost too much even for his prairie-stock mother, who frowned while sleeping. “I counted the seconds,” she told him years later. “Thought about each number going by, and that each second brought me closer to the end of this pain.”
He was also born with a full shock of hair, as white as fresh baseballs. His face was already engraved with furrows. Years later, his wife would recognize the pattern they made as the byways and rural routes of McCook County, South Dakota. His chin, ever sturdy and sharp as though fresh from the grinder’s wheel, could reliably part a headwind. It was a chin that suggested he was the youngest and oldest of 40 brothers. He was not, it is said.
The hair yellowed like those fresh baseballs left out in the sun too long. Sparky Anderson had been left out in the sun too long. The lines upon him deepened and snaked — the way dunes steal across a desert — until he was old. No one knew it, least of all himself.
Near the end, 76 and dwindled by dementia, he mourned not the passing of the years but rather the passing of the seconds that his mother had counted. You sense the years going by, work out by merest instinct that they have drifted beyond your grasp. But the seconds you feel like a hand on the stove.