Published: November 8, 2010

By Jim Lichtman
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“Sparky”… now that’s a name that could only be tagged to a baseball player, except he didn’t play the game, he managed it. Anderson died last week at 76.

“Sparky was, by far, the best manager I ever played for,” saidCincinnati Reds Pete Rose. “He understood people better than anyone I ever met. His players loved him, he loved his players, and he loved the game of baseball. There isn’t another person in baseball like Sparky Anderson.”

“He was a good guy,”Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris said. “Baseball will have very few people like Sparky.”

“Sparky was a loyal friend,” Commissioner Bud Selig said when he heard of Anderson’s passing, “and whenever I would be dealing with difficult situations as commissioner, he would lift my spirits, telling me to keep my head up and that I was doing the right thing.”

When Anderson retired in 1995, his win total of 2,194 was the third highest of all time, now sixth on the career list. But there was more to Sparky than numbers.  Detroit Free Presssportswriter Mitch Albom probably said it best.

“Fans of a certain generation need only hear the word ‘Sparky’ and they’ll know what just passed. And kids, well, it may be hard to explain. Anderson didn’t belong to today’s fantasy league/money ball/analytics world of baseball. He was born to manage it. Not study it. Not even play it. (He was a pretty lousy player.) Manage it. He got the game. He felt it. He gripped the clubhouse the way Ruth or DiMaggio gripped a bat. He played hunches, pulled pitchers, tinkered lineups. He lived the game’s lore until he became part of it. Baseball wasn’t a diamond to Sparky, it was a planet. His home.”

In February, 1999, Sparky was one of the first to respond to my “What do you stand for?” questionnaire. No one could ever accuse him of being long-winded. Although his principles seem brief in print, they’re long on impact over a lifetime.

1. “I don’t live by the wallet. I live by the truth.”

2. “Principle to me is when you give your word, always keep it.”

He did and set an example for the rest of us to follow both on and off the field.


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