George "Sparky'' Anderson, 76, one of baseball's greatest managers who led Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" dynasty of the 1970s to two World Series championships and won a third in 1984 with the Tigers, died Thursday at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He had dementia.
Mr. Anderson, who managed the Florida State League's St. Petersburg Cardinals before becoming the first to win the World Series in both the NL and the AL (Tony La Russa later did it), was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000, his first year of eligibility. When he retired in 1995, his 2,194 victories trailed only Connie Mack and John McGraw. He's still sixth all time.
"Sparky was a loyal friend, and whenever I would be dealing with difficult situations as commissioner, he would lift my spirits, telling me to keep my head up and that I was doing the right thing," Bud Selig said.
With prematurely white hair and a craggy face, Mr. Anderson 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, he had a hard-hitting team led by Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez. When Mr. Anderson managed in Detroit, his team was built around pitching and finesse.
"A baseball manager is a necessary evil," he said. "Baseball is a simple game. If you have good players and keep them in the right frame of mind, you are a success. … My idea of managing is giving the ball to Tom Seaver and sitting down and watching him work."
When Mr. Anderson came to Cincinnati in 1970, he was 35 and had never managed in the majors. His contract was $28,500. "Sparky Who?" was the Cincinnati Post headline.
After losing the World Series to the Orioles in 1970 and A's in 1972, the Reds, who held spring training in Tampa throughout Anderson's nine years in Cincinnati, won 108 games in 1975. In the Series against the Red Sox, the Reds lost Game 6 when Carlton Fisk hit his storied home run, but they won Game 7. One of his key moves that season was switching Rose to third base in May, allowing George Foster to play full time in left.
A year later, the Reds beat the Yankees in four games.
Mr. Anderson was one of the first to quickly bring in relief pitchers, becoming known as "Captain Hook."
He enforced Cincinnati's austere dress code and no-facial-hair policies. In Detroit, he was appalled when his players went on the road wearing jeans and running shoes, and ordered them to wear slacks and jackets.
He was the only manager to refuse to take on replacement players during a labor dispute in spring training of 1995, taking an unpaid leave and angering owner Mike Ilitch. He resigned after a 60-win season, saying the franchise needed a new direction, and retired.
"To be around me, you have to be a little bit cuckoo," he said then. "One day it's written in concrete, the next day it's written in sand. I always felt if I didn't change my mind every 24 hours, people would find me boring."
George Lee Anderson was born Feb. 22, 1934, in Bridgewater, S.D., and moved to Los Angeles when he was 9.
He played one season in the majors, as a light-hitting second baseman for the Phillies in 1959.
Survivors include his wife, Carol Valle Anderson, three children and nine grandchildren. At his request, there will be no funeral or memorial service.
AROUND BASEBALL: The Red Sox exercised a $12.5 million option on David Ortiz rather than give the designated hitter, who turns 35 this month, a multiyear contract. … First baseman Casey Kotchman of Seminole refused an outright assignment to the minors from the Mariners and became a free agent. Also, Seattle hired Chris Chambliss as hitting coach and Robby Thompson as bench coach. … The Brewers official hired Ron Roenicke, 54, as manager. … The Giants declined to exercise a $9.5 million option on World Series MVP Edgar Renteria, paying him a $500,000 buyout. Renteria, 34, is considering retirement after an injury plagued season. … The Rockies declined a $7 million option on left-hander Jeff Francis, 29. … Rangers manager Ron Washington agreed to a two-year contract.