Sparky Anderson, Hall of Fame manager of Reds and Tigers, dies at 76
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 10:04 PM
Sparky Anderson, 76, one of baseball's greatest managers, who led the Cincinnati Reds' "Big Red Machine" dynasty of the 1970s to two World Series championships and won a third in 1984 with the Detroit Tigers, died Nov. 4 at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He had dementia.
Mr. Anderson, the first manager to win the World Series in both the National and American leagues, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, his first year of eligibility. When he retired from baseball in 1995, his 2,194 victories were the third most in history, behind only Connie Mack and John McGraw.
With his prematurely white hair and craggy face, Mr. Anderson had the classic look of a wise old baseball manager even when he was in his 30s. He often comically butchered the language when talking about his teams, but few managers were more astute in their understanding of the game between the lines - and between the ears.
Rather than impose a certain style of play, he managed according to the strengths of his players. In Cincinnati, where his Reds won four National League pennants and two World Series championships in the 1970s, Mr. Anderson had a hard-hitting team led by Pete Rose and Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez.
When Mr. Anderson managed in Detroit, his team was built more around pitching and finesse. His 1984 Tigers started the season at 35-5, won 104 games and beat the San Diego Padres in five games in the World Series.
Even after he was elected to the Hall of Fame, Mr. Anderson played down his own importance as a manager, preferring to praise his players.
"A baseball manager is a necessary evil," he said in 2005. "Baseball is a simple game. If you have good players and keep them in the right frame of mind, you are a success."
When Mr. Anderson came to Cincinnati in 1970, he was an unknown 35-year-old who had never managed in the major leagues.
"Sparky Who?" one headline read.
But he quickly won the confidence of a young team with eight rookies and predicted that the Reds would win their division by 10 games. He was wrong - they won by 14Â½ games.
After losing the World Series to the Baltimore Orioles in 1970 and to the Oakland A's in 1972, the Big Red Machine hit its peak in 1975, winning 108 games.
In a dramatic World Series against the Boston Red Sox, the Reds lost the sixth game in 12 innings when Carlton Fisk hit one of the most storied home runs in baseball history. The next night, however, Mr. Anderson's Reds came back to defeat the Red Sox, 4-3, when Morgan drove in the winning run in the ninth inning.