Thursday, November 4, 2010

God Speed Sparky

I think George "Sparky" Anderson came out of the womb looking about 75 years old. Full head of white hair, smoking a pipe, a well-lined face. In reality, he wasn't "old" at all when he managed the Cincinnati Reds (during their Big Red Machine days) and my Detroit Tigers (famously during the 1984 World Series run and ultimate victory).

News broke yesterday that his family had called in hospice to help with his final stages of dementia, and now we've learned that he has passed at the age of 76.

Sparky was the first manager in baseball history to win World Series titles in both leagues (the NL Reds and the AL Tigers). The astounding numbers of his managerial career earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 - where he went in as a Red. Which most Tigers fans forgave him for because, dang, he managed the Big Red Machine.

Sparky was one of the great characters in baseball who was able to back that up by being pretty darn smart. Which makes the thought of how his final days were spent, succumbing to dementia, all the more depressing. I feel like a piece of my childhood just slipped away into the night.

11 comments:

Phyl said...

When I heard the hospice news yesterday, I honestly did not think the end was so near. He was such an iconic figure and a very special person. My condolences to his family and friends.

Phyllis said...

I know. I was a kid near Cincinnati during the Big Red Machine years and can remember more about those years than about any baseball players since. Sparky was an integral part of my childhood as much as Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, George Foster Sr, and all of them. Very sad news.

Lori said...

I was such a huge fan back then. (I had a huge secret crush on Johnny Bench). That team he put together was amazing.

He was a truly gifted man in his craft, and he will be missed.

Dr J said...

What a great tribute--my hubby and I go WAAAAAAY back with both the Nat'l and American leagues and Sparky was a name everyone knew, regardless of their team loyalties. It is so sad to see the greats slipping away from us -- time does march on, but it reminds us all of our mortality. Live each day well, my friends.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

I grew up a fan of The Big Red Machine. Such a wonderful career he had.

Kath said...

Following Sparky Anderson's Big Red Machine was one of the few activities my father and I could share without argument when I was a teen. Although, come to think of it, my deep and abiding crush on Johnny Bench probably helped with that. Dad died last month before our hometown team, the Rangers, made it to the play-offs. I've been wondering if they follow the Series in the afterlife.

Kristie (J) said...

Having grown up just an hour away from Detroit, I have such fond memories of Sparky Anderson. I was sad to hear of his passing.

Hilcia said...

I was sad to hear the news about Sparky. I remember him from the Big Red Machine days. My Yanks were tanking during that time and needing my baseball fix and to root for a team, I chose the Reds because I had great friends from Ohio -- I also had a teen crush on Johnny Bench at the time. But admired Pete Rose, like no other. Relished those wins against the A's best of all. RiP Sparky!

Big Sis said...

Flying the Tigers flag. He was such a great guy.

Kris Kennedy said...

Oh, I love that picture you have up of him, and I am so saddened by the news.

Wendy said...

I think what got to me the most was the way he died. Dementia is so ugly - for the sufferer and the family.