A winning personality

Sparky ignited flame for three World Championship teams

November 04, 2010
Sparky Anderson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Watch a video of Sparky Anderson's Hall of Fame Induction Speech

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List of artifacts of Anderson's in the Museum's collection

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – They called him Sparky for a reason.

George "Sparky" Anderson was humble and upbeat, candid and sincere, and baseball has lost one of its most beloved and successful managers.

Anderson passed away on Thursday at the age of 76. The first manager to win World Series titles in both the National League and American League, Anderson was inducted in to the Hall of Fame in 2000 by the Veterans Committee. His exceptional managerial career lasted from 1970-1995.

"Sparky was a brilliant manager whose successes between the white lines, in both leagues, are well documented – 2,194 wins, five pennants, three World Series and two manager of the year awards," said Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson. "Not only did his jovial disposition, warm demeanor, infectious smile and innate ability to build confidence allow him to get the most out of his players, but assured him of befriending everyone he touched. He will be missed in Cooperstown, especially during Hall of Fame Weekend where he was a favorite among the fans and his fellow Hall of Famers."

George Lee Anderson was born on Feb. 22, 1934 in Bridgewater, S.D. He began his playing career by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers prior to the 1953 season as an amateur free agent. In 1958 he was traded to the Phillies, and in 1959 Anderson made his major league debut playing second base for Philadelphia. Sparky finished out the 1959 season with the Phillies – playing all of his 152 career big league games that season – then played the next four seasons in Triple-A with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Anderson managed in the minors in the mid-1960s, then returned to the majors in 1969 as a member of the coaching staff for the San Diego Padres. In 1970, was offered the opportunity to step into the role of manager for the Cincinnati Reds.

During his first three seasons, Anderson led the Reds to two National League pennants. In 1975, the Reds won 108 games, the NL championship, and battled the Red Sox in the World Series, coming out on top in the seven-game set. The Reds triumphed again the next season as the "Big Red Machine" swept the Fall Classic of '76 against the Yankees.

During his time with the Reds, Sparky obtained the nickname of "Captain Hook" for his, at the time, unorthodox habit of relying heavily on the bullpen. Also while in Cincinnati, Anderson racked up the highest win total (863) and best winning percentage (.596) of any manager in franchise history.

In June of 1979, after two second-place seasons in Cincinnati, Sparky moved to Detroit, signing on with the Tigers. The Tigers experienced some success immediately under Anderson, but it wasn't until 1984, when the club set a major league record by opening the season with a 35-5 record, that they reached the postseason – where they swept the Kansas City Royals for the American League Championship. The Tigers then completed their championship season by defeating the San Diego Padres in five games in the World Series.

"Sparky's got style and charisma – and knows how to manage and get the best out of his players," said Champ Summers, who played under Anderson in both Cincinnati and Detroit.

Anderson had become the first manager to win World Series for both NL and AL teams, and since then only one other manager, Tony La Russa, has reached that milestone. Anderson continued to manage the Tigers until 1995, when he retired after the season.

Sparky won Manager of the Year Awards in 1972, 1976, 1984 and again in 1987 (after leading the Tigers to the majors' best record that year). He also became the first manager to have 600 career wins in both the NL and AL. Upon retiring, Anderson had managed 4,030 games total racked up 2,194 victories – still the sixth-best total of all-time.

"Baseball is a simple game," Anderson said. "If you have good players and if you keep them in the right frame of mind, then the manager is a success."

Karyn Tucker was a public relations intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum