Sparky Anderson

Sparky Anderson

Captain Hook
February 22, 1934
5' 9"
170 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-10-1959 with PHI
Allstar Selections:
1984 Mgr, 1987 Mgr
Hall of Fame:

Though some classified Sparky Anderson as a push-button manager, he is the only man to lead teams in both major leagues to World Series titles, and also 100 wins. Four times he was named Manager of the Year, and his career win total ranks in the top five in history. Anderson is the all-time victory leader for two franchises, the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers. Sparky proved he was no slouch — in the World Series he defeated Dick Williams and Billy Martin, two of the best managers of that era. His enthusiasm for the game and his penchant for satisfying story-hungry reporters, reminded many of Casey Stengel.

His 2,194 career wins are the sixth most for a manager in Major League history. Anderson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.


Anderson was born in Bridgewater, South Dakota, on February 22, 1934. He moved to Los Angeles when he was eight. He was a batboy for the USC Trojans. He attended Susan Miller Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, California. Upon graduating, he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1953. Sparky's American Legion Team won the 1951 National Championship, which was played in Briggs Stadium (Tiger Stadium) in Detroit.

Anderson began his playing career with the Santa Barbara Dodgers of the class-C California League, where he was primarily used as a shortstop. In 1954, he was moved up to the class-A Pueblo Dodgers of the Western League and was moved to second base, where he played the rest of his career.

In 1955, Anderson was moved another step up the minor league ladder, playing for the Double-A Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League. A radio announcer gave him the nickname "Sparky" in 1955 for his feisty play. In 1956, he moved up once more, this time to the Triple-A Montreal Royals of the International League. In 1957, he was assigned to the Los Angeles Angels of the open-classification Pacific Coast League. The next season, after the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles, he returned to Montreal.

After five minor league seasons without appearing in a Dodger uniform at the MLB level, Anderson was traded to the Phillies and became their regular second baseman in 1959. In his only big league season, Anderson hit .218 and Philadelphia finished in last place. He returned to the minors and eventually became a manager in the minors with Toronto in 1964. Following four more seasons as minor league manager, he returned to the NL in 1969 as a coach for San Diego. He accepted a coaching post with California for 1970 but then was hired to manage Cincinnati.

Sparky's Reds won 70 of their first 100 games en route to a 102-win campaign that netted them a division title, and eventually the NL pennant. Anderson would spend nine seasons with the Reds, compiling the highest win total (863) and best winning percentage (.596), of any manager in team history.

He became known as "Captain Hook" for his frequent early removal of his starting pitchers in an era when that strategy was still unusual. It was a policy dictated by necessity. The "Big Red Machine" was based on offense, and often Anderson lacked a quality rotation. Also, many of the Reds' best starters -- Gary Nolan, Don Gullett, and Wayne Simpson -- were injury-prone and could not be overworked. But the Reds developed some of the best relief corps in the majors, including Clay Carroll, Wayne Granger, Tom Hall, and Pedro Borbon.

Despite his success as a Red, Anderson was fired on November 27, 1978 after two consecutive second-place finishes. Anderson had objected when team management decided to shake up his coaching staff, so he was let go as well. Anderson decided to sign on with the Tigers, where he won a World Championship in 1984 and a division title in 1987. By the time he left in 1995 he had set franchise records for most seasons (17), games (2579), and wins (1331) by a manager.

In Detroit, Anderson became known for his unbounded optimism and a tendency to overstate his case to reporters. He called Kirk Gibson "the next Mickey Mantle" and handed less-talented players such as Chris Pittaro and Torey Lovullo regular jobs, praising their talents to the maximum, only to see them play themselves back to the minors within months. One Detroit columnist said, "Anderson changed his mind more than his socks," but at least the manager's door was always open to the media and Anderson had no problem speaking the truth. He readily admitted that a manager is only good if the players perform well, and openly talked about how easy and fun his job was. It was clear to everyone around Anderson that the enthusiastic manager wanted to enjoy every second of managing and life.

Usually a cheerful man, Anderson suffered a nervous breakdown in 1989 as the Tigers foundered at the bottom of the standings and was forced to leave the team. "I was completely worn out, completely exhausted," he said. "I had worried so much for so many years about my job that the whole thing just caught up with me." Overcoming his own worries about whether he would ever be able to manage again, he returned to the team after three weeks.

Sparky stayed at the helm of the struggling franchise until 1995, when he made headlines by refusing to manage a team of replacement players during the player's strike. Instead, he went on a "leave of absence" during spring training and Tiger ownership allowed him to return when the season started. The Tigers again finished under .500, but along the way Anderson became the third-winningest skipper in baseball history.

Tired of losing, Anderson handed over the reins of the Tigers to Buddy Bell after the season. He nearly made a comeback with Anaheim in 1997, but the Angels ultimately decided to hire Terry Collins. At that point, Anderson decided to call it quits for good, ending a career in which he won 2,194 games -- the third-highest total in baseball history behind John McGraw and Connie Mack.

Anderson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 2000. Although he managed 17 seasons in Detroit and just 9 seasons in Cincinnati, his Hall of Fame plaque has him wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform. He chose to wear the Reds cap at his induction in honor of former GM Bob Howsam, who gave Anderson his first chance at a major-league managing job. Before his induction, Anderson had refused to go inside the Hall because he felt unworthy, saying "I didn't ever want to go into the most precious place in the world unless I belonged." In his acceptance speech he gave a lot of credit to his players, saying there were two kinds of managers, "One, it ain't very smart. He gets bad players, loses games and gets fired. There was somebody like me that I was a genius. I got good players, stayed out of the way, let 'em win a lot, and then just hung around for 26 years." He was very proud of his Hall induction, "I never wore a World Series ring ... I will wear this ring until I die."

Anderson was also inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame the same year. On May 28, 2005, during pre-game ceremonies in Cincinnati, Anderson's jersey number, #10, was retired by the Reds. A day in Anderson's honor was also held at Detroit's Comerica Park during the 2000 season.

On June 17, 2006, Anderson's number was retired by the Fort Worth Cats, for whom Anderson had played in 1955. In 2007, Anderson was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

On November 3, 2010, it was announced that Anderson had been placed in hospice care at his Thousand Oaks home because of his deteriorating dementia condition. Anderson died at the age 76 on Thursday, November 4, 2010 in Thousand Oaks. He is survived by his wife Carol, sons Lee and Albert, daughter Shirley Englebrecht, and nine grandchildren.

Sparky Anderson
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