Blog #37 (Sparky Anderson)

By Richard J. Decker on October 17, 2012 7:00 AM

This week there is no legal section of the blog.

Now for the Opening Day memory:

Sparky Anderson began his Hall of Fame managerial career relatively unknown, and at the very tender age of 36. His playing career had lasted a mere one year (in 1959 with the Philadelphia Phillies) and when he was selected to manage the Cincinnati Reds in 1970, he lacked any major league managerial experience. All he did was become the first manager to win the World Series in both leagues; with the Reds in the National League in 1975 and 1976, and with the Detroit Tigers in the American League in 1984. It was Sparky, despite never himself hitting a major league home run, who spawned the Big Red Machine--the Cincinnati Reds powerhouse dynasty of the 1970's featuring, among others: Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Davey Concepcion. With the Reds, Sparky won the National League pennants in 1970 and 1972 losing in the World Series, respectively, to the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's before winning the ultimate prize in 1975 against the Boston Red Sox and following it up the very next year by sweeping the Yankees.

Immediately after his 1978 termination as the Reds' manager, Sparky signed on to manage the Tigers, which he did from 1979-1995. In 1984, Sparky led the Tigers to World Series victory against the San Diego Padres. What was remarkable about that season was that the Tigers were in first place every single day of it; it was the first wire-to-wire finish by a team since the 1927 Yankees. Sparky ended his managerial career with 2194 wins (then 6th all time). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000. His number 10 was retired by the Reds in 2005, and his number 11 was retired by the Tigers in 2011. He passed away in November 2010. I am very thankful I got to talk to him, and boy, could he spin a yarn. Here are his Opening Day memories.

Anderson.JPG"My first Opening Day as a manager was in 1970. We were still playing in old Crosley Field. The Reds used to open first then. We opened up against the Montreal Expos, who were managed by Gene Mauch. To open against him was probably as great a thrill as I could ever have had. I remember the game so well because it was very cold and very windy, and it would mist and then stop, and then mist and then stop. I was very nervous because I hadn't slept hardly at all. I might have fallen off for an hour during the night. I remember standing at home plate, and this is something I'll never forget. They had what they called "The Market" in Cincinnati--a big wreath was presented and we, as the managers, were presented with gifts. So I was standing there alongside Mauch and I was scared to death, believe me. And I felt a little tug on the side of my left pant leg. And I turned and Gene was looking at me and he said, 'Welcome to the Major Leagues, Sparky. Remember this day, because it will never happen again.' And I never forgot that.

And every young manager since then that I ever ran into on Opening Day, I always told them what Gene told me that first day. I would say, 'I'm gonna tell you a story of a man who did this for me and I'm gonna tell you it because this will be the last time you'll ever have this event happen.' It relaxed me so much and made me feel like I belonged. And I've told Gene since, that all the things I admired about him, the one thing that will always be with me was that gesture. It showed me what kind of man he was, knowing how nervous I was without me telling him. I've never forgotten it. We ended up winning that day, 5-1, with Lee May hitting a three run homer in the wind and rain."

Thanks Sparky--you will be missed. See everyone in two weeks. Richie