Sparky Anderson passed away today at the age of 76.
While perhaps his closest connection to the Twins would be that his 1987 Tigers lost the ALCS to the Twins’ eventual World Series Championship team, I feel compelled to acknowledge the passing of a man who gave so much to the game of baseball and was so well respected by seemingly every player who ever played for one of his teams.
Anderson managed in Cincinnati and Detroit for a total of 26 years, won 2,194 games and three World Series titles (in 1975 and 1976 with his Big Red Machine teams, and 1984 with the Tigers). But numbers are not a meaningful measure of a man like Anderson and yet it would be presumptious of us to try to craft a post honoring him. So, instead, let’s share what those who knew him best over the years have to say.
Former player Jack Morris: “He was a good guy. Baseball will have very few people like Sparky. He was a unique individual. He was a character with a great passion and love for the game. He had a lot to do with molding me professionally and taught me a lot about perseverance.”
Former player Alan Trammell: “He was tough on us early on. Once you get older, like with your parents, you appreciate that but at the time, amongst ourselves, we were like, what’s going on? But he did it for a reason and we’re all appreciative. He did it the right way. There’s a right way and a wrong way. Not only in baseball, teaching us the game, he wanted us to know more about conducting ourselves on and off the field like a true professional.”
Former player Pete Rose: “Sparky was, by far, the best manager I ever played for. He understood people better than anyone I ever met. His players loved him, he loved his players, and he loved the game of baseball. There isn’t another person in baseball like Sparky Anderson. He gave his whole life to the game.”
Tiger Hall of Famer, Al Kaline: “Sparky was one of the greatest people I’ve met in baseball. He was a leader to his players both on and off the field. He was an incredible person and I cherish the time I was able to spend with him.”
ESPN Writer Tim Kurkjian: “No manager in baseball history was more true to his nickname than George ‘Sparky” Anderson. No manager ever loved the game more than Sparky. No manager did the job with the same relentless energy and enthusiasm as Sparky. No manager smiled as often as Sparky. No manager was more of a gentleman than Sparky. No manager was nicer than Sparky. Late in his career, Anderson asked the media to start calling him by his given name, George, saying no man in his 50s should be called Sparky. But, it never took. He was and always will be Sparky.” Click here to read Kurkjian’s full story.
Sparky Anderson, about himself, in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech: “I got good players, stayed out of their way, let them win a lot and then just hung around for 26 years.”
If you’d like to read more memories of Sparky Anderson, I highly recommend you check out this post by si.com’s Joe Posnanski, who authored a book about Anderson’s Big Red Machine teams, as well as this column by fellow si.com writer Steve Rushin.
Finally, even long after the words of those who knew him and played for him have been lost or forgotten, future generations will read this… on his plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame: “The crank that turned the Big Red Machine. Revered and treasured by his players for his humility, humanity, eternal optimism and knowledge of the game.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Carol; his sons Lee and Albert; his daughter Shirley Englebrecht; and his nine grandchildren.