Thursday, November 4, 2010

Goodbye, Sparky

As a kid growing up in central Indiana in the 1970s, I was a Cincinnati Reds fan. It made sense: Cincinnati was (and still is) the closest city with a major league team, and the Indianapolis Indians were the Triple-A affiliate of the Reds into the 1980s. And it didn't hurt that when I started to get interested in baseball, the Big Red Machine was at its peak. With Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, et al, the Reds won back-to-back World Series titles in 1975-76, and were good throughout the decade.

As manager, Sparky Anderson knew the right buttons to push on the Big Red Machine. He was the first manager I knew by name, and I saw my first example of bad ownership moves when the Reds fired Sparky before the 1979 season. Of course, Sparky went on to manage the Detroit Tigers, leading them to another World Series title in 1987.

Sparky Anderson was a class act and a great baseball manager, though the following quotation from Sparky shows that he may have disagreed with the latter statement:

"Baseball is a simple game. If you have good players and if you keep them in the right frame of mind then the manager is a success."

As tribute, here are a few more quotations from Sparky (who was known for quite a few):

"I can't believe they pay us to play baseball - something we did for free as kids."

"I've changed my mind about it (the DH) - instead of being bad, it stinks."

"My idea of managing is giving the ball to Tom Seaver and sitting down and watching him work."

"Problem with (John) Wockenfuss getting on base is that it takes three doubles to score him."

"If I ever find a pitcher who has heat, a good curve, and a slider, I might seriously consider marrying him, or at least proposing."

"A baseball manager is a necessary evil."

"I only had a high school education and believe me, I had to cheat to get that."

Goodbye, Sparky--you were the best.

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