It’s difficult to overstate George “Sparky” Anderson’s impact on the Cincinnati Reds. By extension, it’s clear that Sparky had an influence on our lives, as well. He’s a true Reds legend, in every sense of the word, and he will be missed dearly.
Anderson spent 26 seasons as a manager with Reds (1970-78) and Tigers (1979-95). Most memorably, of course, he was at the helm for the Big Red Machine years in Cincinnati, confidently and brilliantly leading perhaps the greatest team ever. Overall, he won 5 pennants and 3 World Series (1975-76 Reds, 1984 Tigers), and was the first manager to win World Series in both leagues. Sparky was inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Reds Hall of Fame in the same year.
Sparky, of course, has passed away at age 76, at his home in Thousand Oaks, CA. The retrospectives and memories are being posted everywhere. Here’s a few….
* John Erardi has perhaps the best of the bunch:
I’m writing this today not because Sparky has just died. I’ve been saying it for years whenever somebody has asked me who is the nicest person I’ve ever met in sports. My answer’s always been the same: “Sparky Anderson — nobody else even close.”
Everybody who ever met Sparky has a Sparky story, because he was congenitally kind. Sparky would dispute the congenital part. He says he learned it from his father growing up in Bridgewater, S.D.
* As only Joe Posnanski can do: George and Sparky:
He was the youngest manager in baseball — he turned 36 during his first spring training. And, already, his hair was shock white. He carried a can of black hair dye with him on those first few road trips before he came to realize that it didn’t much matter, he wasn’t really fooling anybody. The hair, like the optimism, like the exaggerations, like the malapropisms, like the inconsiderate pulling of pitchers (they called him Captain Hook), like the winning would all become a part of Sparky Anderson persona. In 1972, Johnny Bench began calling Sparky’s overbearing spring training schedule “Stalag 13.”
“But we still like Sparky,” Bench said.
“Why?” a reporter asked.
“Because … we just do,” Bench said.
* Over at MLB.com, a recognition that Sparky was a truly beloved figure.
* I love this: Sparky on the Charlie Rose program twelve years ago.
* Rob Neyer says Sparky was one of the greats.
* Joe Morgan mourns his manager.
* About a year ago, I spoke with Posnanski, who wrote the definitive tale about the Big Red Machine. Much of his book, “The Machine,” was about Sparky, and he had a lot to say about the man in our podcast.
* Sparky Anderson: Gentleman and Legend.
* The Enquirer has some great Sparky quotes that I’ve added to a random quote generator in the sidebar.
* The ESPN story.
* Some video of Sparky and the Big Red Machine.
* So long, Sparky, says Chris Jaffe over at The Hardball Times. It’s a unique look back at some highlights and lowlights of Anderson’s career.