Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Anderson, Sparky

George Lee “Sparky” Anderson dedicated his life to the game of baseball and its many fans have showered him with their love and admiration in return. 

Born on February 22, 1934, in Bridgewater, South Dakota, but raised in California, Anderson was an average infielder who played one full season in the major leagues before his .218 batting average ended his career prematurely.  He turned his attention to managing, where his natural leadership abilities and knowledge of the game helped him become one of the greatest managers of all-time. 

After coaching in the minors for five years, Anderson joined the staff of the San Diego Padres in 1969.  In 1970, he was hired as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds and went on to win 102 games in his rookie year, only to lose in the World Series.  After winning back-to-back World Series crowns with the Reds in the 1970s, Anderson was fired by the team after two straight second place finishes.  In an unusual mid-season move, he was hired as the new manager of the Detroit Tigers in June 1979. 

With the arrival of Anderson, the Tigers’ fortunes began to change.  In 1984, the team captured the hearts of baseball fans throughout the region as they opened the season with a record 35-5 start, going on to win the World Series in five games.  As Detroiters saluted their team with the cheer “Bless You Boys,” there was no doubt that the team’s manager was one of the most beloved of those “Boys.”  The team would follow up that victory with a division crown in 1987.  Anderson retired from the Tigers and Major League Baseball in 1995 with 2,194 wins and a .545 winning percentage.

Anderson was a great mentor and teacher, inspiring his players to perform at their peak levels on every play. During his career in Detroit, he managed numerous outstanding players including Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson, Guillermo Hernandez, Lance Parrish, Darrell Evans, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Chet Lemon and Cecil Fielder.  

Anderson’s quick wit and passion for the game earned him the admiration of the Detroit media, and during his stint in Detroit he co-hosted his own local sports show.  Anderson’s passion also extended into the broader community, with his founding of CATCH, a charity whose work benefits Detroit’s Children’s Hospital and underprivileged kids in Michigan.  Sparky Anderson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

Sparky Anderson died on November 4, 2010 at the age of 76. 

 


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