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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, New York.

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 Detroit.

``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 one."

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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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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