Baseball has lost a true legend today. Sparky Anderson was a great manager and had a passion for the game of baseball that few possess. He will be missed.
The white-haired genius who helped make red the pre-eminent color in the National League in the ’70s and directed the American League team that roared the loudest in the ’80s has passed. Sparky Anderson, the chatty Hall of Famer given to outrageous success and outlandish predictions, joined the great majority on Thursday, two days after he was placed in hospice care at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where he had spent most of his adult life. Death came at age 76 for a man who had spent 42 years in professional baseball, 26 as a manager.
Readily identified throughout the game simply by his nickname, George Lee Anderson was the first man to manage a World Series champion in each league. He steered the Big Red Machine to victory against the Red Sox in the wonderful and rain-protracted, seven-game Series in 1975 and to a sweep of the Yankees the following October. Eight years later, his Tigers team won 35 of its first 40 games, led the American League East wire to wire and won seven of eight postseason games. The ’76 Reds, the only team in the divisional-play era to sweep a postseason, remain the last NL team to repeat as World Series champions.
Anderson left the game following the 1995 season and was inducted into the Hall of Fame — he is depicted on his plaque wearing a Reds cap — in the summer of 2000. His 2,194 regular-season victories rank sixth all-time, his .545 winning percentage fifth all-time among those who have managed at least 3,000 games. His Reds won at least 92 games in seven of nine seasons, producing 210 victories in 1975-76. His Tigers teams averaged 91 victories from 1982-1988. The ’84 team won 104 games before its postseason rampage.