Sparky Anderson, Baseball Hall of Fame manager, died yesterday, at the age of 76, of complications resulting from dementia. He was known for managing the Cincinnati Reds’ 1970s Big Red Machine dynasty, as well as the Detroit Tigers, who had an incredible 1984 season.
The Cincinnati Reds won the World Series under Sparky Anderson in 1975 and 1976. The 1975 World Series, against the Boston Red Sox, is considered to be one of the greatest of all time. The following year, the Reds swept the New York Yankees.
Sparky Anderson was hired to be the manager of the Detroit Tigers in the middle of the 1979 season. The Tigers became a winning club almost immediately, finishing above .500 in each of Sparky’s first three full seasons, but did not get into contention until 1983, when they finished second to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East.
Then the Tigers had a historic run in 1984. They won their first 9 games of the season, and were 35-5 after the first 40 games. They were in first place for the entire season from the first game all the way to the end. Relief pitcher, Willie Hernandez won the Cy Young Award and was chosen as the American League Most Valuable Player. The team also had great players such as catcher – Lance Parrish, 2nd Baseman – Lou Whitaker, shortstop – Alan Trammell, 3rd Baseman – Howard Johnson, Outfielders Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon and Larry Herndon, as well as starting pitchers Jack Morris, Dan Petry, and Milt Wilcox. The tigers finished with a record of 104-58, 15 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays.
They then went on to sweep the Kansas City Royals 3-0. And they beat the poor San Diego Padres (in the Padres first World Series), 4 games to 1. Sparky Anderson was the first manager to lead a team to a World Series victory in both leagues.
Here is a clip of Sparky Anderson receiving a phone call from President Reagan after the Tigers won the series:
The Tigers made the playoffs again in 1987, with the best record in baseball that year. However, they were upset by the Minnesota Twins.
Anderson retired from managing after the 1995 season, upset with the state of baseball after the nasty players strike from the 1994 and beginning of the 1995 season. But, it is widely believed that Anderson was pushed into retirement by the Tigers, who were unhappy that Sparky refused to manage replacement players during spring training in 1995.
Anderson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 2000. His Hall of Fame plaque has him wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform. He chose to wear the Reds cap at his induction in honor of former GM Bob Howsam, who gave Anderson his first chance at a major-league managing job.
Survivors include his wife, Carol Valle Anderson, three children and nine grandchildren. At his request, there will be no funeral or memorial service.