Sparky Anderson becomes first manager to win 600 games in both leagues
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Anderson’s career took off when general manager Bob Howsam decided to hand him the keys to the soon-to-be “Big Red Machine” in 1969. Although Reds fans were skeptical of a 35-year old newcomer taking the helm of one of the best teams in baseball, he quickly became a household name. Anderson won 102 games his first year, and would win 863 with the Reds through nine seasons, on top of four National League pennants and back-to- back World Series Championships in 1975 and 1976.
But after Howsam turned over the role to Dick Wagner, things changed. The Reds had “suffered” two second-place finishes in 1977 and 1978, and since winning was expected in Cincinnati, Anderson was fired. He soon found work as manager of the Detroit Tigers, where he made history again as the first manager to win a World Series in both leagues, in 1984. When he retired in 1995, he had accumulated an overall record of 2,194-1,834 – the third-winningest record in baseball history at the time.
Even after he had cemented his name in the history books, Anderson still went to work every day knowing full well he had his dream job – and that it was a privilege, not a right. Throughout his career, he would undersell the role of a manager, crediting his players for his success.
“I got good players, stayed out of their way, let them win a lot and then just hung around for 26 years,” he said during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in 2000.
But whether he was willing to admit it or not, Sparky Anderson was brilliant at what he did.
“It’s a lot like a chess game,” Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench once remarked. “And Sparky was a chess master.”
Alex Coffey is the Communications Specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame