I don't remember much about Sparky Anderson as manager of the Big Red Machine. By the time I started really following baseball Anderson was manager of the Tigers. With the Reds I always sort of figured anyone could win with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tom Seaver and all those other great players. It isn't really true. It, of course, is easier to win with great players but many managers find a way to lose even with great players. Sometime teams need a manager that stays out of the players' way. That's hard for some managers. Anderson managed the Reds for 9 year, won 2 World Series, finished first in his division 5 times and finished second 3 times.
He went over to the Tigers in 1979 and was manager there for 17 seasons. He won 1 World Series with the Tigers, but for the most part, never enough pitching. He was great with the media. He knew how to deal with them, be interesting and be funny.
I remember him best from an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. He was hired by Mr. Carlson to do a phone-in radio show. You can watch it here if you want. One of my favorite programs ever. A great bit, Jennifer introduces herself and says she watched every home game, he knew the her seat number.
He left us some great quotes:
."My idea of managing is giving the ball to Tom Seaver and sitting down and watching him work."
"We averaged 96 wins my nine years in Cincinnati. We had Bench, Rose, Morgan, Perez, Foster, Griffey, Concepcion and Geronimo. Imagine what I could have done if they had given me some players!"
"Just give me 25 guys on the last year of their contracts; I'll win a pennant every year."
"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."
"The players make the manager. It's never the other way."
I guess I always thought he was older than he was. He died at 76, I kind of thought he was in his 70's back 30 years ago.
He seemed like a great guy, sometimes nice guys do finished first.