No. 9 Most Quotable Figure in Baseball History
No. 9Â George “Sparky” Anderson (42 quotations)
Umpire Al Clark once said, “I refuse to call a 47-year-old, white-haired man Sparky.”
Although he looked like the father of Steve Martin, it was his fiery play that earned him the nickname Sparky while playing in the minor leagues. He moved up through the ranks of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles farm system as a light-hitting shortstop. A trade to the Phillies earned him the starting second base job for Philadelphia in 1959. His hitting line (.218/.282/.249) in 152 games got him shipped back to the minors. Things were so bad with the Phillies that his daughter Shirley booed him just “so all those people booing wouldn’t know you were my father.”Â Years later he declined to participate in an old-timers’ game, claiming, “I couldn’t play when I played.”
He would spend the next four seasons in Toronto (AAA) before transitioning into coaching. After winning four consecutive minor league pennants as a manager, he was hired as third base coach for the San Diego Padres in their debut 1969 season. He was all set to move to the coaching staff of the California Angels the next season when the Cincinnati Reds came calling and made a surprising move by hiring the unknown Anderson as manager. It didn’t take long for Sparky to endear himself to Reds fans.
Sparky led the Reds to the National League pennant in his first season (1970) and again in 1972. His Big Red Machine went on to win back-to-back championships in 1975 & 1976. Anderson noted with modesty, “The players make the manager; it’s never the other way.” When the Reds dropped to second place in ’77/’78, he was summarily fired. Sparky noted that even successful managers get fired because “they get tired of seeing you. Really, thatâ€™s all it is.”
Sparky didn’t stay unemployed long, moving to the AL with the Detroit Tigers. His 1984 team, which started the year 35-5, won the World Series, and Sparky earned the distinction ofÂ becoming the first manager to win a championship in both leagues.
Sparky also appeared on TV as a guest commentator for the World Series (except 1984). Johnny Bench commented on Anderson’s somewhat stiff on-screen presence, “The first time Sparky Anderson saw a microphone, he thought it was for milking.”
Sparky was known to utter some pearls of wisdom worthy of Casey Stengel. He once discussed an injury to shortstop Alan Trammel: “Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with his shoulder except some painâ€”and pain donâ€™t hurt you.”
Sparky managed the Tigers for 17 seasons, almost twice as long as he managed the Reds, and not all of them were successful: “The great thing about baseball is when youâ€™re done, youâ€™ll only tell your grandchildren about the good things. If they ask me about 1989 (when Detroit finished 59-103), Iâ€™ll tell them I had amnesia.”
Anderson also wrote several books, including The Call Me Sparky. Longtime Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell said in 1998, “Sparky’s the only guy I know who’s written more books than he’s read.”
He finished his managerial career with 2,194 wins, sixth most all-time, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000. His uniform No. 10 was retired by the Reds in 2005, and the Tigers will retire his No. 11 in a ceremony scheduled for June 26, 2011. Sparky Anderson died in 2010 at the age of 76.
For all these famous baseball quotations and about 5,800 more, pick up The McFarland Baseball Quotations Dictionary, 3d ed.