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"Some Kind Of Man" And Manager: SPARKY ANDERSON

         

    It was "Sparky Who?" in October 1969 when the Cincinnati Reds hired George Anderson to become the 44th manager in the history of the club. But by October 1970 everyone knew Sparky Anderson after he led Cincinnati to the Western Division crown and the National League pennant.

    Sparky, however, took little credit for the success, preferring to give his players their due. "Eleven other managers in our league could have won 102 games with these players," Anderson said.

Catcher Johnny Bench, who won the Most Valuable Player Award that year, thought differently though.

 

"Something happened last spring," Bench said after the 1970 Series. "We knew we had a good ball club, but something happened. It was Sparky Anderson. We call him John, as in John McGraw."

 

That good start was only an omen of better things to come. Before he was fired after the 1978 season, Anderson established a Cincinnati record that may never be broken. He won 863 games to become the winningest skipper in club history. His teams won five Western Division championships, four National League pennants and back-to-back world titles in 1975 and 1976. 

Except for 1959 when Anderson was the starting second baseman

for the Philadelphia Phillies and one other season when he was a San Diego coach, he spent 16 years in the minor leagues before being selected as the Reds manager.

After quitting as a player, he took a cue from former Reds manager Charles Dressen and began managing in the minor leagues. Starting with Toronto. He was fired after his team finished fifth, and he switched to the Cardinals farm system in 1965 where he came under the influence of Bob Howsam, then the St. Louis general manager.

Howsam brought Anderson with him in 1968 to the Cincinnati organization, installing him as the manager at Asheville, North Carolina, in the Class AA Southern League.

One year later Sparky was coaching third base for the San Diego Padres, and Howsam was getting impatient with Dave Bristol, who couldn't get the Reds over the hump and into a division championship. When Cincinnati finished third in 1969, a call went out for Anderson to come to Cincinnati.

From the very beginning Sparky made quite an impression. His even-tempered personality tended at times to cloud a perpetual inner drive. "There are some people who would rather follow," said Sparky. "but me, I'd rather lead. There isn't any shortcut to success, it just takes plenty of hard work."

 

 

   Sparky gained national attention - and respect - after the 1970 World Series. He refused to dispute umpire Ken Burkhardt's call of a controversial collision at home plate. Burkhardt was in the wrong position to make the call, but Sparky didn't make an issue out of it.

Later in that same Series he impressed NBC's Joe Garagiola, who was telecasting the game. That situation involved Sparky's use of reserve catcher Pat Corrales in the fifth game. Sparky sent the seldom-used Corrales to the plate in the ninth inning in place of Hal McRae, a much better hitter.

"Why?" Sparky said, when asked his reason for doing that. "This Series is the dream of every man' in baseball. He came thousands of miles for this and he may never get this close again. I think there will be more for him, but I couldn't forget him."

Garagiola, himself a former participant in the World Series, was shocked and impressed. "Here's a man with troubles. But here, one

of the big moments of his life, he forgets his own problems to consider the feelings of another human being. That takes some kind of man."

There's no question, Sparky Anderson is some kind of man. And Reds baseball history is much richer because of him.

         
       

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