Tag:Sparky Anderson
Posted on: January 31, 2012 5:22 pm

Sparky in Japan? It almost happened

Sparky Anderson won in Cincinnati, and he won in Detroit.

Probably would have won in Japan, too.

We'll never know, but what we do know now is that he thought about giving it a try. In a soon-to-be-published book about his 32-year friendship with Anderson, Dan Ewald reveals that the Hanshin Tigers offered to make Sparky their manager soon after he left the Detroit Tigers at the end of the 1995 season.

Ewald, the former Tigers PR man, writes that he and Sparky discussed the offer for three full days before Anderson decided to turn it down.

Or rather, as Ewald writes, Anderson decided to have Ewald turn it down.

"You're gonna tell 'em how deeply I appreciate their offer," Ewald quotes Anderson as saying. "You're gonna tell 'em how much of an honor it is. But at this time, I just can't make such a commitment. Tell 'em I'll always be grateful for the consideration they gave me."

Ewald said he then asked Sparky why he had to be the one to call Japan.

"You gotta tell 'em," Sparky told him. "I don't speak no Japanese."

Not that Ewald spoke Japanese, either. But that was Sparky.

Anderson died in November 2010, but his voice comes through clearly in Ewald's book (due out May 8, from St. Martin's Press). It's not a biography, and it's not about baseball.

It's more a story of a friendship, with one of the friends just happening to be one of the best-known managers in baseball history.

The near-move to Japan is probably the biggest new piece of information about Anderson, but Ewald also details the reasons behind Anderson's 1989 leave of absence from the Tigers (his daughter was pregnant, and her husband had left her), and details Anderson's conversations with the Angels about becoming their manager in 1997.

The Angels nearly hired Anderson that fall, and Ewald writes that the plan was for Anderson to manage for two years with Joe Maddon as his bench coach, and for Maddon to then take over. Angels president Tony Taveras nixed the move, and the Angels hired Terry Collins instead.

I covered Anderson for the last six years of his Tigers career, and there was plenty in the book that made me smile. There are great nuggets, like the one about Sparky celebrating his election to the Hall of Fame with burgers and fries from In-N-Out.

Ewald builds the book around three days he spent at Anderson's California home just 10 days before Sparky died. They look back at their time together, from Detroit to the Hall of Fame.

And, almost, to Japan.
Posted on: June 24, 2011 8:53 pm

Putz: Tiger fans 'robbed' by timing of ceremony

DETROIT -- Alan Trammell's criticism was so subtle that you could wonder if it was even meant as criticism.

Asked his feelings about the Tigers retiring Sparky Anderson's number on Sunday, the former Tiger shortstop and manager said simply, "It would be better for him to be here, to hear his words."

Obviously, Anderson won't be at Comerica Park. The Tigers, after steadfastly refusing to retire his number while he was alive, finally announced plans to do so after Anderson died last December.

J.J. Putz's criticism was not subtle.

"Tiger fans are a little robbed because Sparky can't be here," said the Diamondbacks closer, who grew up in Trenton, Mich., as a huge Tiger fan.

Putz was seven years old when Anderson's Tigers won the 1984 World Series, with his current manager (Kirk Gibson) and bench coach (Trammell) playing starring roles.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Putz said. "I watched it with my grandparents, because my mom and dad were at the game."

Now Putz will be at Comerica Park to see the Tigers retire Anderson's number. He'll be happy to see it.

He wishes Anderson could have seen it, too.
Posted on: June 24, 2011 10:19 am

3 to Watch: The honoring Sparky edition

The home team is honoring Sparky Anderson this weekend at Comerica Park.

So are the visitors.

The Tigers will finally, belatedly, retire Sparky's No. 11 in a ceremony on Sunday. The Diamondbacks -- the first-place Diamondbacks -- will show that baseball as Sparky taught it still works.

It's ridiculous that the Tigers waited until this year, until Anderson died in November, to do this. It's great, and perfectly fitting, that they chose to do it this weekend, with Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell and the team that they have tried to craft in Sparky's image in town to see it.

"Sparky meant the world to them," Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall said, and anyone who knows Gibson or Trammell just a little bit knows that's 100 percent true. "He was their mentor, and their idol."

In the three years Trammell managed the Tigers, with Gibson at his side as a coach, they tried hard to teach the game as Sparky had taught it to them. For various reasons, mostly a lack of talent on the field, they lost 300 games and were never in first place after April 17.

Now Gibson is in his first full year managing the Diamondbacks, with Trammell at his side as bench coach. And this time, the Diamondbacks are in first place, ahead of the World Series champions, in the final days of June.

This time, with better talent, baseball as Sparky taught it is working the way it worked all those years for Anderson.

"I think Gibby gets the majority of the credit," Hall said. "I'd also give a lot of credit to [new general manager] Kevin Towers, and to the coaching staff. They're all on the same page like I've never seen a coaching staff."

They play baseball the way Gibson teaches it. He teaches baseball the way he learned it from Sparky.

Is there any better way to honor a Hall of Famer?

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When he took over for Mike Hargrove four years ago in Seattle -- after Hargrove stunned everyone by quitting in the middle of a long winning streak -- John McLaren said: "I have always wanted to manager, but not on terms like this." OK, John, how about these terms? The Nationals have won 11 of 12, and Jim Riggleman just stunned everyone by quitting. Oh, and this time, the team is saying you're only the interim manager until they find a new interim manager, maybe by Monday. Have fun, and bring us a win, in Nationals at White Sox, Friday night (8:10 ET) at U.S. Cellular Field.

2. The last time Tim Wakefield pitched in Pittsburgh, Jim Leyland was the Pirates manager. And Barry Bonds was in left field. The Pirates were a playoff team. And Wakefield was pitching for them. He's appeared in 574 major-league games since then, none of them in Pittsburgh. Now he returns, in Red Sox at Pirates, Saturday night (7:05 ET) at PNC Park. As an added bonus, perhaps Red Sox manager Terry Francona will put Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield, for the first time in six years and just the second time in his big-league career.

3. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said that Gibson has been looking forward to this weekend's series in Detroit, but mostly because he'll get to see his family. But you've got to believe it means something to him to take a first-place team into town, and you know that the Sparky Anderson ceremony, to be held before Diamondbacks at Tigers, Sunday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Comerica Park, will mean a lot to him. You also know that Gibson's main goal this weekend is to win games. "That's the way they were brought up by Sparky," Towers said.

Posted on: June 16, 2011 11:36 am
Edited on: June 16, 2011 6:03 pm

Eventually, they all return

For years, the Tigers wouldn't retire Sparky Anderson's number.

For months, the Yankees wouldn't speak Joe Torre's name.

On June 26, the Tigers will retire Sparky's No. 11. That same day, Torre will put on No. 6 for Old-Timers' Day in the Bronx.

The honors are deserved. The feuds were petty. They usually are.

And at least Torre has made up with the Yankees while he's still alive. The Tigers waited for Sparky's death last November to finally do the right thing and honor him.

Sparky left the Tigers on not-so-good terms at the end of the 1995 season. He came back for one Sparky Anderson Day, convinced that the Tigers were going to retire his number -- and they didn't. He came back two years ago, for the 25th reunion of his 1984 champions, but the honor was for the team, and not really for him.

Torre left the Yankees on not-so-good terms at the end of the 2007 season. When they closed old Yankee Stadium a year later, the Yankees pointedly left Torre's name completely off a video tribute. He came back last year for the unveiling of a monument to George Steinbrenner, but the Old-Timers' return feels more significant.

Old-Timers' Day means more for the Yankees than it does anywhere else -- do they even hold Old-Timers' Day anywhere else anymore? -- and thus Thursday's announcement of the 2011 participants held some significance.

Torre is on the list for the first time. So is Bernie Williams, who had his own not-so-good departure, but has since returned with some regularity -- and always to huge cheers. So is Lou Piniella.

They should be there. Torre should feel welcome at Yankee Stadium, just as Sparky Anderson should have always felt welcome at Comerica Park.

At some point, everyone remembers that. You just hope it's not too late.


Speaking of not too late, good for the Padres for announcing Thursday that they'll retire Trevor Hoffman's No. 51 on Aug. 21. Not that it's a big surprise. Hoffman left the Padres on not-so-good terms in 2008, but he returned in a front-office role after retiring last year.
Posted on: May 10, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 11:38 pm

Tony's team plays on, even without him here

CHICAGO -- Two decades ago, I moved to Michigan to cover the Tigers.

Or, as some people there would have told you, I moved there to cover Sparky Anderson.

In those years, people never asked, "How are the Tigers going to do this year?"

It was always, "How's Sparky going to do this year?"

In those days, the Tigers were Sparky. Sparky was the Tigers.

And that's pretty much how it is with the Cardinals and Tony La Russa.

No team is baseball is as defined by its manager as this one is. No manager in baseball is as synonymous with his team as this one.

The Cardinals are not Albert Pujols, any more than the Tigers of the 1980s were Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker or Jack Morris.

The Cardinals are Tony La Russa. And that's what made Tuesday such a strange night.

The Cardinals were at Wrigley Field. La Russa was in Arizona.

He'll be gone all week, the Cardinals announced late in Tuesday night's 6-4 win over the Cubs. The Cardinals hope he can return to the dugout when the team comes home next week, but even that isn't certain.

For now, La Russa is where he needs to be, finally dealing with a health condition diagnosed as shingles. For weeks, La Russa's players and coaches have watched him struggle with it. They've seen his swollen faces and his watery eyes.

"You could see on his face, he was struggling," said Chris Carpenter, Tuesday night's winning pitcher for the La Russa-less Cards.

When the Cardinals were in Los Angeles four weeks ago, the Cardinals players and coaches were telling La Russa to go to the hospital.

He refused.

"He doesn't want to let anyone down," said Dave McKay, La Russa's longtime first-base coach. "Ask him how he's doing, and he says, 'I'm OK.'

"And you know he's going through hell."

He doesn't want to be away. La Russa phoned in Tuesday night's lineup to acting manager Joe Pettini, and Pettini said he expects a phone call and a lineup every day this week.

"He's going to know everything that's going on," Pettini said, noting that he had voice mail from La Russa when Tuesday's game ended. "I was just hoping I didn't have to take my phone down to the dugout."

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, who talked to La Russa during Tuesday's game, said the manager understands that rest and medication are what the doctors have prescribed.

But everyone around La Russa understands how tough it is for him to be away.

"He's never missed a game," said McKay, who joined La Russa with the A's in 1989 and moved with him to St. Louis in 1996. "I've never even seen him ill, although a lot of that is that he wouldn't want you to know it if he was."

He would never want you to think that he wasn't in control, and he always wants the Cardinals to play the game right and to conduct themselves right. Just as Anderson did, La Russa insists that his players treat clubhouse attendants and flight attendants with respect.

And he insists that his players care as much and compete as hard as he does.

"The way we play on the field, how hard we play, is a reflection of our manager," said reserve catcher Gerald Laird, who came to the Cardinals this year and found that La Russa was everything he expected him to be.

It doesn't work for every player. We all know about the guys who have had run-ins with La Russa, the guys the Cardinals have traded away because they didn't mesh with La Russa.

We also know that whatever happens with his health this week, La Russa's time in St. Louis could be coming to an end. He's 66 years old, and once again operating in the final year of his contract.

One of these years, he actually will walk away from the Cardinals, although the thinking in baseball has been that if Pujols stays, then La Russa will stay, too.

Meanwhile, the thinking on the South Side of Chicago has been that La Russa is the one manager that Jerry Reinsdorf would be happy to get back, the one guy he wouldn't mind replacing Ozzie Guillen with.

At this point, that would feel strange, even though La Russa did manage the White Sox for nine years. At this point, it's even strange to look back and see La Russa in an A's uniform, even though he managed that team for 10 years and won his first World Series there.

He is the Cardinals, and the Cardinals are him.

"He treats the organization like it's his," McKay said. "The guy's tireless. He treats it like he owns it."

That's why it was so hard for him to leave. That's why it was so strange to see the Cardinals without him.

"His influence is with this club," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.

There's no doubt about that. La Russa's coaches have been with him for years, and they'll run the game the way he would, as much as they can.

Pettini will be the acting manager, with Dave Duncan handling the pitching and McKay and Jose Oquendo running their part of the operation.

It's still La Russa's team. It still will be his team.

And even as you ask how Tony is doing, it's still right to ask how Tony's team is doing.

Posted on: April 6, 2011 10:56 pm

For Rays, 'This ain't good'

The Rays aren't the only team to start this season 0-5.

They are the only team to start 0-5 at home . . . and without ever taking a lead.

To anyone who watched the 1992 Tigers, this looks familiar. To anyone who was there, this means only one thing.

It's time to bring back one of the best lines that Sparky Anderson ever uttered -- and one of the most appropriate.

Five games into that 1992 season, Sparky's Tigers were 0-5. Five games, all at home, and they'd never taken a lead.

And after that fifth loss, when we walked into Sparky's office, he looked up and said, "I've got to be real honest with you, men. This ain't good."

It's been 19 years since Sparky said that. In 19 years, not one other team began a season 0-5 at home without ever leading -- until now. Until the 2011 Rays.

The '92 Tigers actually lost their first six games at home (they didn't lead in Game 6, either), against the Blue Jays and Yankees. They went on the road and won three of four in Cleveland. They would get close to .500 at a few points during the year, including at 47-50, but they never fully recovered and finished 75-87.

Sparky was right. It wasn't good.

And Rays manager Joe Maddon could say the same thing.
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 27, 2011 4:07 pm

In so many places, a sad spring

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs don't go a day this spring without thinking of Ron Santo.

They barely go a day without talking about him.

"It's good to think of him," manager Mike Quade said Sunday, a few moments after recording his first radio pregame show with Keith Moreland, Santo's successor in the Cubs broadcast booth.

The Cubs will wear a patch on their uniforms to honor Santo, who died in December. The Indians are wearing a patch to honor Bob Feller. At Goodyear Ballpark on Sunday, the grounds crew painted a "19" in front of the Indians dugout for Feller, and a "10" in front of the Reds dugout for Sparky Anderson.

In Peoria, the Mariners ran a video on Dave Niehaus before their spring opener.

Nice tributes, all of them. It's sad that this spring is filled with them.

Santo. Feller. Sparky. Niehaus.

And now Duke Snider.

The Hall of Fame announced Sunday that Snider died in California, at the age of 84.

Unlike some of the others, Snider wasn't around big-league ballparks as often in recent years. For many fans of my generation and those younger, the biggest memory of Snider is from Terry Cashman's song, "Willie, Mickey and the Duke."

But Snider lives on in the memories of Brooklyn Dodger fans. He lives on in the memories of those who have been with the Dodgers over the years.

"Although it's ironic to say it, we have lost a giant," Vin Scully said, in a statement released by the team. "He's joining a great Dodger team that has moved on."

The Dodgers will no doubt find a way to honor Snider. I have no doubt they'll do it well, just as the Cubs have done, just as the Indians and Reds have done, just as the Mariners have done.

In too many places, it's been a sad spring.
Posted on: December 30, 2010 6:06 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2010 6:12 pm

Ex-big leaguer Boros dies at 74

What a sad year this has been for the Tigers.

Ernie Harwell died. Sparky Anderson died. Bill Lajoie died.

And last night, Steve Boros.

Maybe he wasn't as well known as the other three, but I'd challenge you to find anyone who knew him and didn't like him. And just about anyone who spent time in baseball over the last 50 years ran into Boros at one time or another.

He was a $25,000 Tigers bonus baby in 1957, a local kid signed out of Flint and the University of Michigan. He was never a big-league star, but he spent parts of seven seasons with the Tigers, Reds and Cubs. He later managed in the big leagues, with the 1983-84 A's and the 1986 Padres. He was one of the first managers to make use of a computer.

Boros came back to the Tigers in 1996, working first as minor-league field coordinator and then in other jobs through 2004.

Boros was 74.

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