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In memoriam: Sparky Anderson

Sparky AndersonSparky Anderson, the manager of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine World Series champs and later a Series winner with the Detroit Tigers, passed away today at the age of 76. He had been in poor health and recently hospitalized for dementia.

Anderson was the first manager to win World Series with two different teams in two different leagues. A colorful baseball lifer, Anderson’s 1975 and 1976 Cincinnati Reds teams won World Series titles, as did his 1984 Detroit Tigers.

As a player, Anderson didn’t do a whole lot, batting .218 in 1959 with the Philadephia Phillies, his only MLB stint as a player. But he quickly found he was suited to the dugout, taking over the reins of the Reds in 1970 and winning a pennant in his rookie managerial season. Though the core of the Reds — Johnny Bench, Dave Conception, Tony Perez, Gary Nolan, Don Gullett and Pete Rose — were already in place when Anderson took over, the team went to the next level and beyond under his guidance.

In 1979 he took over the Tigers from Les Moss and established another winning team. On that 1979 roster: Lance Parrish, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Milt Wilcox and Aurelio Lopez: key players when the Tigers won it all in 1984.

Anderson was a little rough around the edges, but he also played that for great effect, usually overpraising his players (despite his prediction, Don Gullett is still as of yet not in the Hall of Fame) but always bringing enthusiasm to the ballpark.

“People learned not to take me too serious,” he told a local newspaper during spring training in the late 1980s. “I wanted my players to know I believed in them.”

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