Sparky Anderson — Hall of Fame manager who skippered the Big Red Machine and the 1984 Tigers to World Series titles — is now in hospice care with complications of dementia.
It hardly seems possible that it's been 15 years since the white-haired one left the dugout. He won 2,194 games as manager; that's now sixth on the all-time list, but was third when he retired. The Cincinnati teams he had in the mid-70s boasted probably the best lineup of regulars ever:
|There will be no more|
Sparky Anderson monologues
comparing Kirk Gibson
favorably to Mickey Mantle.
Griffey (Sr.), rf
It strikes me that Sparky spent most of his long managerial career with two shortstops — Dave Concepcion in Cincinnati and Alan Trammell in Detroit. Both of them were better than a handful of shortstops enshrined in Cooperstown, but neither right now can be called the best eligible shortstop not in (that would be Barry Larkin).
Anderson was a mentor, at least at a distance, to Tom Kelly, which makes it at least slightly ironic that it was Sparky on the losing end of the ALCS to Kelly in 1987.
But what I will long remember about Anderson was off the field. As I recall, it was 1988, the year after the Tigers lost out on a World Series trip to the Twins. My future wife and I went to a day game, the last game of a Tigers-Twins series at the Dome; the Twins won. She and I went to a restaurant for a meal and were walking past the Dome again. The Tigers bus was idling outside the players gate, ready to go to the airport.
And Sparky, doubtless chafing internally after a lost game and lost series, was standing outside the bus door, a swarm of people around him, signing autographs.
We all go sometime, and it appears that Anderson's time will come soon, and when he goes he won't be — and isn't now — the Sparky Anderson we remember.
But we will remember.