Question of the day: What’s your favorite memory of Sparky Anderson?
Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
This was in 1991, when the Angels had just fired another manager, Doug Rader. At that point, no Angels manager had lasted more than three consecutive years since the original one, Bill Rigney, from 1961 to 1969. Anyway, Sparky Anderson was in town with the Detroit Tigers. I asked him about the firing, and he shook his head. The Angels, he said, would never have consistent success until they had stability. In 11 years under Mike Scioscia, the Angels have appeared in the playoffs six times. In the previous 39 years, they had appeared in the playoffs three times.
It would be too simple to say that Anderson won because he lasted, although it is true players knew there would be no point in trying to undermine the manager and get him fired. Anderson had great players, of course, especially in Cincinnati. But his genius was in making players feel good even when they faltered. The clubhouse usually opens to the media 10 minutes after a game, but Anderson would keep his clubhouse closed for 15 or 20 minutes after a tough loss. The media would first assemble in the manager's office, where Anderson was a master storyteller. He took the pressure off his players by talking for them, and talking and talking. He talked for so long that, by the time the reporters left his office, the guy that dropped the fly ball or gave up the game-winning home run might not have to explain his failure to reporters -- because he might be long gone.
[Updated at 1:40 p.m.
Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant
Sparky Anderson was in the final season of his Hall of Fame managerial career in 1995, my first season on the Red Sox beat. On the weekend trip to Detroit early in the season, Anderson held court in the home dugout as one reporter after another came and went while the Tigers manager talked.
Anderson talked and talked, answered every question and treated an anonymous rookie reporter from Hartford like an old friend. When asked about his refusal to work with replacement players during baseball’s spring training lockout, Sparky was honest and thoughtful and verbose — boy, could he talk.
And he sometimes talked himself in circles. He overhyped players (Mike Laga, anyone?) and could laugh at himself when he misspoke. Our favorite Sparky-ism: Calling his favorite Boston restaurant “Lethal Seafood.”
Yes, I still think of Anderson every time I see a Legal Seafood restaurant. And that leads to memories of a nice man treating everyone — from the best player on his team to some unknown reporter — with kindness.]
Photo: Sparky Anderson. Credit: Associated Press