Reds fans were taken aback when Sparky Anderson showed up in Cincinnati for his first day as a big league manager, an unknown taking over baseball’s first professional team.
By the time he was done, this man with the shock of white hair and schoolboy nickname would produce a considerable list of achievements that featured three World Series titles — including crowns in each league — and a Hall of Fame entry on his resume.
Anderson, who directed the Big Red Machine to back-to-back championships and won another in Detroit, died yesterday from complications of dementia in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 76. A day earlier, his family said he’d been placed in hospice care.
Anderson was the first manager to win World Series titles in both leagues and the only manager to lead two franchises in career wins.
"Sparky was, by far, the best manager I ever played for," said former Reds star Pete Rose, the game’s career hits leader. "He understood people better than anyone I ever met. His players loved him, he loved his players, and he loved the game of baseball. There isn’t another person in baseball like Sparky Anderson. He gave his whole life to the game."
Anderson’s teams in Cincinnati — featuring Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Rose — won crowns in 1975 and 1976 and rank among the most powerful of all time. Led by Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell, Anderson won with the Tigers in 1984.
"He was a good guy," former Tigers pitcher Jack Morris said, choking up over the news. "Baseball will have very few people like Sparky. He was a unique individual. He was a character with a great passion and love for the game."