Friday, November 4, 2011

In Memory

With all the managerial changes due to firings, resignations and retirements this year, I thought we would remember one of the greats in the game.

He won back to back series with Big Red Machine in 1975 and 1976. He also won with the Tigers in 1984. It has been a year since Sparky Anderson died at age 76.

His style was flamboyant but convivial. “I got good players, stayed out of their way, let them win a lot and then just hung around for 26 years,” said Anderson during a 2000 speech on being inducted to the Hall of Fame. He had some of the greats in the game and he helped them become great. Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Jack Morris and Kurt Gibson to name just two from each team.

Sparky is the nickname of George Lee Anderson. He got the name from a broadcaster while playing for the Double-A Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League as a shortstop in 1955.

We have Maple Leafs General Manager, Jack Kent Cooke, to thank for Sparky’s involvement with managing baseball. Sparky played for the Triple A Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team. This was after his time in the show in a Dodger’s uniform. Even though Sparky was not a great ball player (fielder, no bat) Cooke noticed he could teach, lead and inspire those around him. In 1964 Cooke hired him to manage the Maple Leafs. (Same team Babe Ruth once played for).

Very quickly Sparky rose thru the managing ranks producing championship teams in each of his four minor league years. The Reds hired him for the 1970 season. They won 102 games in the regular season and then lost in the WS to the Orioles. It was this team that gained the moniker the “Big Red Machine”. It was a name that stuck until 1979. Sparky was hired by the Tigers in 1980 starting another run to the WS. He holds the franchise record for wins by any manager with the Tigers at 1,331.

Sparky is also the first manager to win World Series rings in both leagues. Of course, Dick Williams of the Padres, would have also been the first if they had beat the Tigers in 1984.

Sparky’s style was his “sunny disposition”. Except when it wasn’t. He could dust it up with the best of them, but not often. He treated his players with respect and taught them about the real game and about real life. He did start what is now a common practice. Get to the bullpen. If the starter is not doing well, don’t wait, get the relievers out there. He became know as “Captain Hook”. Tony LaRussa called him a mentor. I guess that is part of what we just saw in this year‘s WS with so many pitching changes for the Cardinals. (What was that? LaRussa brought in a reliever to pitch-out one batter.)

In 2000 Sparky was inducted to the Hall of Fame. His number 10 was retired by the Reds in 2005 and his number 11 retired by the Tigers in 2011. Each Tiger player, this past season, wore his number 11 on their uniform. Sparky is missed by the whole of baseball and its fans.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

Thanks for this, John.