Scott Sparling

Hallucinations, a blog about writing, trains, and Wire to Wire

This is not my book

Posted on Mar 22nd, 2011.

Wire to Wire: Inside the 1984 Detroit Tigers Championship Season is not my book. Though in a way it is. This other Wire to Wire, written by George Cantor and published in 2004, chronicles the magical year when the Tigers opened the season with a 19-1 record.

Imagine it happening day by day. 19 wins. One loss. A few weeks later they were 35-5. During the first quarter of that season, the Tigers were virtually unbeatable. Argue great teams all you want, but based on that win-loss record, no team in baseball has ever been that good, before or since.

Wire to Wire: Inside the 1984 Detroit Tigers Championship Season Cover

The Tigers won the pennant and the World Series wire to wire that year – meaning they were in first place every day of the season. Only two other teams had ever done that in over 100 years of baseball.

I took that as a freaking sign. I named my book after it. (Cantor's book, I might add, had not been written yet.) 

Later, I wrote to Jesse Burkhardt about my decision to quit my job and write a book. Jesse is also Iron Legs Burk, who showed me how to hop freights. He saved the letter for a decade or two, and today he mailed it back to me. 

To be clear, my Wire to Wire has nothing to do with baseball. The Tigers aren’t even mentioned. (Well, actually, there’s a little play by play in the background of one scene, an argument. If you read the book and you’re from Michigan, imagine the great Ernie Harwell calling the plays as Harp and Lane shout at each other.)

Stripped of the Tigers' connection, the phrase wire to wire had to find its own meaning in my story. And eventually it did. The necessity of discovering what it meant was a blessing I didn’t recognize at first.

The letter continues:


Near the end of the letter, the younger me also writes this to Jesse: “There’s a line in my book that says ‘we rode the rails and we kept going long after most people would have quit.’” That particular line is no longer in the book – the voice is wrong – but now it seems to apply as much to writing as it did to riding. I kept going. The strength came from a lot of people, Jesse and many others. It came from music, my family, from random good luck that fell on me for no reason – and even from a baseball team that, during one amazing year, simply couldn’t lose.


I’m part way through Cantor’s book, by the way, and if you’re a baseball fan, or a Sparky Anderson fan, I think you’d enjoy it. I also have a new phrase in my head – a phrase that still needs to find its meaning. I'm taking that as another good sign.


In a world like this, you need a heart like Jon Dee Graham's. So you don't get "Faithless."

Posted in Wire to Wire | Writing