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Sparky Anderson remembered: 'He lived the game's lore'

By Cindy Boren

Just as you'd expect for the first manager to win a World Series in each league, the tributes to Sparky Anderson, who died Thursday at 76 of complications from dementia, were steeped in baseball lore, touching and, because this was Sparky Anderson, a lot of fun to remember.

From Mitch Albom:

Fans of a certain generation need only hear the word "Sparky" and they'll know what just passed. And kids, well, it may be hard to explain. Anderson didn't belong to today's fantasy league/money ball/analytics world of baseball. He was born to manage it. Not study it. Not even play it. (He was a pretty lousy player.) Manage it. He got the game. He felt it. He gripped the clubhouse the way Ruth or DiMaggio gripped a bat. He played hunches, pulled pitchers, tinkered lineups. He lived the game's lore until he became part of it. Baseball wasn't a diamond to Sparky, it was a planet. His home.

Anderson made his first mark as a manager in Cincinnati and the Tampa Tribune's Joe Henderson recalls seeing the headline "Sparky Who?" as a young Reds fan in Ohio. That faded quickly with the rise of the Big Red Machine. Although Sparky always seemed locked in time at a certain age, thanks to that shock of white hair, he was only 35 when he was hired to manage the Reds in 1970.

The bits, like why Sparky always kept his hands in his back pockets when he went to the field to argue with an umpire, are wonderful.

Once asked what kind of music was his favorite, Anderson replied, "The love songs," a reply that the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Erardi says fit him perfectly.

From WXYZ in Detroit:

Sparky Anderson had a way with words, although his comments were occasionally Yogi-esque. "I've got my faults, but living in the past is not one of them. There's no future in it." He was more poetic than Yogi, though, and more succinctly shared his baseball wisdom: "Just give me 25 guys on the last year of their contracts; I'll win a pennant every year."

MORE on SPARKY

The plaid jacket: Sparky's "WKRP" appearance

From Cincinnati: A photo gallery; Sparky talks baseball

From Detroit: Fan memories; Sparky and Ernie Harwell; one final trip to Cooperstown; Sparky knew everybody

From the Baseball Hall of Fame: A retrospective

By Cindy Boren  | November 5, 2010; 5:28 AM ET
Categories:  MLB  
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