The Loss of A Legend

Steve O Speak

All of us at were saddened today to hear of the passing of one of Baseball’s greatest managers, Sparky Anderson. Our deepest sympathies go out to Anderson’s family and the Tigers and Reds organizations that Anderson managed to greatness. Our Nostalgiaspeak writer Willypops offers his memories of just how great Anderson’s Reds were:

Remembering Sparky AndersonBy Willypops:

I was saddened today to hear of the death of Sparky Anderson, long-time major league manager, first with the Cincinnati Reds and then the Detroit Tigers. Sparky managed for 26 years and he amassed a number of notable accomplishments during that time, including becoming the first manager to win the World Series in both leagues.  But it was his 9-year stint with the Reds that is most memorable to me.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania as an avid Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I actually didn’t have any fondness for Sparky and his Reds.  When Sparky took over the team in 1970, he led the Reds to a first place finish in the National League West Division.  Back in those days, each league was divided into two divisions, with the winner of each squaring off in a five-game series to determine who would move on the World Series.  The Reds played the Pirates in that 1970 National League Championship Series (NLCS) and swept them.

With such players as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan, Sparky’s Reds were to go on to be known as ”The Big Red Machine”, winning four National League pennants and back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976.  They also went on to become the Pirates nemesis in the early to mid-70’s.  Oh how I came to hate that team.  In addition to the 1970 triumph, the Reds beat the Pirates in the 1972 NLCS (3-2) and again swept them in the 1975 NLCS.  The Pirates had some very good teams back in that time frame.  From 1970 through 1975 the Bucs appeared in five of the six NLCS match-ups.  In 1971 they beat the Giants and then went on to beat the Orioles in the World Series.  And although they lost to the Dodgers in the 1974 NLCS, those three series losses to the Reds were the ones that were particularly hard to swallow.  That 1972 loss was the most devastating of all.  The series came down to a fifth game at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium.  The Pirates took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 9th.  But Bench led off with a homer to tie the game up and after giving up two straight singles, Pirates closer Dave Giusti was relieved by Bob Moose.  Moose got the next two batters to fly out but with George Foster on third and facing pinch hitter Hal McRae, Moose uncorked a wild pitch and Foster scored to give the Reds the win and a trip to the World Series.  Of all the ways Sparky’s Big Red Machine could beat you, they won that one on a walk-off wild pitch!  But that’s the way Sparky’s teams played – they would find a way to beat you.

From what I’ve read and heard, Sparky was a fun-loving, likeable guy.  But he managed with intensity and enthusiasm and he got his teams to play that way as well.  I may have disliked him and his team because of what they did to the Pirates, but I certainly appreciated what he accomplished throughout his managerial career.  As managers go, you couldn’t get much better than Sparky Anderson.  Baseball lost a legend today.  And true baseball fans everywhere, not just in Cincinnati and Detroit, will feel that loss.

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