Sparky Anderson

The Core Belief

1986. The Tigers appear to have a hot shot third baseman in Darnell Coles, a former first round draft pick recently acquired from the Seattle Mariners. Once again, Tom Brookens is relegated to the bench as Sparky Anderson sings the praises of a player who is sure to be a future Hall of Famer. Coles goes on to hit 20 homers and play what I will generously call an erratic third base. Tiger fans across the world wondered why Brookens didn’t start in the first place but hey, that was Sparky – always optimistic all the time.

Tiger fans were want to believe the silver haired leader of our baseball team because his first declaration came to pass: the Detroit Tigers would be world champions within five years of his taking the helm in mid season 1979. (The Kitties would win in 1984.) It mattered not that the Chris Pitaros and Darnell Coles of the world would turn into barely passable big leaguers or that Alan Trammell turned out to be a lousy manager (Sparky’s last major Tiger declaration in 2003.). He brought the Tigers back to respectability. Who cared if the Old Man was suffering from early onset Dementia?

Yesterday, the Anderson family announced Sparky had been moved to hospice care. He was, in fact, suffering from the effects of dementia. Interestingly, few believed Sparky actually had dementia. “You Uncle Mike told me he had a stroke.” I wanted to as well. For me, Dementia and Sparky Anderson meant yet another grand statement about a run of the mill ball player. A managers attempt to keep the fans interested as his once glorious not aging team.

It was those very statements, and his fracturing of the English language second only to Yogi Berra, that made Sparky such a wonderful interview for the national media and Tiger beat writers. After hearing the hospice announcement, I decided to put off writing about the manager who led the Tiger’s throughout my youth to read some of those stories from the players he managed and writers to whom he spoke. Alas, it was not to be.

Sparky Anderson, aka “Dr. Hook” (Anderson pulled pitchers quickly and with great regularity), elected to the Hall of Fame as a manager in 2000, died today in his Thousand Oaks, California home at the age of 76. Two baseball cities and millions of fans are weeping this afternoon. Not bad for a .218 lifetime hitter who found fame as the manger of the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers.

Res ipsa locquitur

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