Friday, November 5, 2010

Remembering Sparky Anderson

I met Sparky Anderson once in the lobby of the Baltimore Hilton Hotel in 1979 as he was checking in to help cover the 1979 World Series on radio. He was in line with other members of the media including Vin Scully and I remember how distinguished Anderson looked. He was well-dressed with a deep tan and his mane of hair was as white as snow.

About a month ago, I finished reading Joe Posnanski's worthwhile book on the 1975 Cincinnati Reds titled "The Machine," which enjoyably examines that team's greatness and it's drive to winning the pennant and World Series against the Boston Red Sox. To me the book's central character is Anderson and one of the best parts comes when he decides to move Pete Rose from the outfield to third base.

That season, the Reds started out playing .500 ball and Anderson was worried that he was going to get fired. He wanted to get Dan Driessen and his power bat into the lineup, so without consulting the front office, especially the Reds' General Manager Bob Howsman, Anderson moved Rose to third and put Driessen in left field.

Howsman, according to the book, was in Arizona when Rose played his first game in the infield. The next day he picked up a newspaper to see how the Reds did the night before. When he saw that Rose was at third base in the box score, he thought it was a misprint. He called home and when he was told that Pete had indeed played third base, Howsman uttered, "Oh my God!"


add Anderson: Putting Rose at third was just one of several strategic moves that Sparky made that season that helped propel the Reds to the world championship. Anderson lived in Thousand Oaks, a residential community located on the border of Ventura and Los Angeles counties. When he wasn't managing, Anderson did some radio work including color commentary on Angels games. Sparky wasn't known for his grammar and command of the English language but his knowledge of the game made him a joy to listen to.

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