Sparky Anderson Deserves Hall of Fame Nod
Sparky Anderson was enshrined into the Cincinnati
Reds Hall of Fame last season. But health problems postponed the ceremony.
He underwent triple bypass surgery last July.
This February 22, Anderson turns 66 - seven days
before the Baseball Hall of Fame veterans' committee meets in Tampa,
Florida. The word is out that the genial baseball lifer is a leading
contender for selection. And why not!
What is puzzling is why the man who managed the Reds
to World Series championships from 1975-76 and led the Tigers to one in
1984, is not already enshrined in baseball heaven located in Cooperstown,
These days Sparky likes to be known by his given name
- George. But whatever name is used, the image of the intense, always
prepared, driven pilot surfaces. For 26 years he managed in the majors,
leading the Reds from 1970-78, and the Detroit Tigers from 1979-95.
He has managed 4030, won 2194, and lost 1834 games
for a winning percentage .545. In any league those are not bad stats - and
this was the major league with some teams that were not that prime time.
Anderson has personally taken part in two games at the Hall of Fame, but
he has never set foot in the hallowed baseball shrine.
"I always made myself a promise that I would
never go inside the Hall of Fame unless I made it,'' he said. "I've
always thought about it. I've always said this: If you go into this game
and start your career and you don't think about making that, you don't
belong in the game. To me, that's the greatest. Every young player who
starts his first year, that should be his goal.''
The Big Red Machine of Cincinnati that Anderson so
capably managed has second baseman Joe Morgan and catcher Johnny Bench
already enshrined in the Hall. Tony Perez was elected to the Hall this
past Tuesday, along with Carlton Fisk. Induction for them will take place
in Cooperstown, N.Y., July 23.
If Anderson was admitted - and this writer sees no
reason why he should not be - that would make four members of that great
Reds' team honored.
Pete Rose is another matter. He is at the moment not
eligible for the Hall of Fame. There's the matter of his lifetime ban for
gambling which he prefers to ignore.
The thought of entering baseball's Hall of Fame along
with one of his former stars Tony Perez makes Sparky sparkle.
``Oh my goodness,'' Anderson said. "Yes, that
would be a great moment.''
And a great but nice problem would be Anderson having
to decide if he is chosen - which team he would represent - Cincinnati or
``That would be the hardest decision I have ever made
in my life,'' he said. ``It's so unfair either way. I was in one place
(Detroit) for 17 years and another for nine years. But if I had not been
at the first one with those guys, I would never have gotten to the second
These days George "Sparky" Anderson takes
it easy back home in Thousand Oaks, California. Walking an hour each day,
playing golf, musing about the old glory days takes up his time. And he
yearns for the shot at induction into the Hall - an honor long past due.
# # #
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Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
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