Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sparky Anderson, legendary manager of Reds and Tigers, dies at 76

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.

Sparky Anderson, legendary manager of Reds and Tigers, dies at 76 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 11:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Back to .500, Rays feel ready to roll (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Who wants to be mediocre? Middling? Average? Run-of-the-mill?

    Rays catcher Jesus Sucre tags out the Angels’ Mike Trout trying to score from second base after a perfect peg from rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. in the first inning.
  2. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. preserves shutout with perfect throw

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The closest the Angels came to scoring off RHP Matt Andriese in Thursday's 4-0 Rays victory occurred in the first inning, when DH Mike Trout tried to score from second on a single to right. But the throw from RF Steven Souza Jr. was on the money, and Trout was out.

    "That …

    Colby Rasmus collects high fives and shoulder rubs after driving in all four of the Rays’ runs in their victory Thursday. Rasmus had two run-scoring hits a day after hitting a home run.
  3. Rays at Twins, 8:10 p.m. Friday, Minneapolis

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Twins

    8:10, Target Field, Minnesota

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Chris Archer (3-3, 3.76)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    If you're walking, you're hitting, as the saying goes, so it's a good sign that RF Steven Souza Jr. reached base four times, with a hit by pitch, a single and two walks. Hitters feel they are coming out of slumps when they are walking, because they are seeing the ball better. That's good news for the Rays …

  5. Fennelly: Dirk Koetter's apology no way to keep this fidget spinning


    TAMPA — It all began with a fidget spinner.

    This tweet from the Bucs, mocking the Falcons' 28-3 lead they lost in the Super Bowl against the Falcons, prompted a public apology from head coach Dirk Koetter, who called it "unprofessional and not smart."