Sparky Anderson’s Special Day: Detroit Tigers Retire His Number

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In a gesture that is long overdue, the Detroit Tigers are scheduled to retire the number of managerial legend Sparky Anderson on Sunday prior to their game against Kirk Gibson’s Arizona Diamondbacks. It is not surprising that one of these teams is entering the season in first place, but the part that is shocking is that it is the club from Phoenix. They are really cashing in on the catastrophic demise of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their narrow lead over San Francisco does not mean that it is only a two team race. The Colorado Rockies have been known to make some late season runs throughout the last few years.

Seventeen of Anderson’s twenty-six seasons as a major league manager were spent with the Tigers. He won a world title for the city in 1984. Much of the next decade was ruled by the Pistons and Red Wings in the motor city, but the Anderson years were memorable for baseball fans. The double play combination of Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammel were stalwarts from these clubs. Tiger Stadium was a unique platform for his talents. Managing in the American League is usually not as appealing for sharp mind like Anderson’s because there is less maneuvering with the lack of double switches. The pitching changes can simply be made by considering endurance and effectiveness rather than who is coming up to the plate in the future. His time in Cincinnati with the Reds could have scratched the itch for that type of experience.

One of Anderson’s finer attributes is that he could relate to players over multiple generations.

As we watch today’s coddled athletes gripe about their lives on Twitter, he had to adjust his approach and temperament throughout the years. He also had the uncanny talent of being able to relate with players from different backgrounds and races. This truly made him a man before his time, because it was much more common to be a “my way or the highway” type of guy. Billy Martin was fire and brimstone all of the time in New York. That style would wear thin with me over the duration of a marathon baseball season. I would tend to tune a coach out with a demeanor like that. The message would be lost with all of the theatrics.

Yogi Berra is known for providing the best quotations in the game’s history. Sparky Anderson had a few memorable lines of his own as well.

“He’s built like a Greek Goddess.”-referring to Jose Canseco

“A baseball manager is a necessary evil.”

“The day I got a hit off Koufax is when he knew it was all over.”

“I’ve changed my mind about it (DH)-instead of it being bad, it stinks.”

“Me carrying a briefcase is like a hot dog wearing earrings.”

“Players have two things to do. Play and keep their mouths shut.”

“He wants to do so good so bad.”

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

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