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Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson placed in hospice care in his Thousand Oaks home

November 3rd, 2010 10:12 pm PT

By Jim Smiley, Los Angeles Dodgers Examiner

Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson has been placed in hospice care at his home in Thousand Oaks, California, for complications resulting from dementia.


The former skipper of the Reds and Tigers had been in declining health the last year. In a statement the Anderson family expressed, “appreciation to all friends and fans for the support and kindness they have shown throughout Sparky's career and retirement.”


Though the affable Anderson always availed himself to the media, the family is hoping for understanding during this private time, saying in the statement that, "The family is particularly grateful for the respect for privacy the national and local media have demonstrated during this trying period.”


Anderson has a longtime Los Angeles connection, having moved to California in 1942. A shortstop at L.A.’s Dorsey High School, Anderson was part of the inaugural Los Angeles High School Sports Hall of Fame as announced in February of this year. After high school, USC coach Rod Dedeaux offered him the batboy job for the Trojans.


Drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953, Anderson spent six seasons in the Dodgers’ farm system before being traded to the Phillies in December, 1958. Anderson played in 152 games for Philadelphia in 1959 and hit .218. He never played another big league game.


Anderson’s managerial career featured many highlights, including three World Championships --- two with the Big Red Machine in 1975 and 1976, and one with the Tigers in 1984. With this, Anderson became the first manager to guide teams from each league to World Series titles.


Tony La Russa later duplicated that feat by winning with the A’s in 1989, and the Cardinals in 2006.


Anderson is the only manager to hold the top spot for wins for two franchises. He finished his run in Cincinnati with 836 wins and a .596 winning percentage. Second on the Reds’ list is Hall of Famer manager, Bill McKechnie who tallied 744 victories. Anderson finished with 1,331 wins for the Tigers, exactly 100 more than the runner-up on the list, Hall of Famer Hugh Jennings.


When he retired, Anderson was third on baseball’s all-time list trailing only Connie Mack and John McGraw. Anderson’s win total of 2,194 has since been surpassed by LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre.


No further information about Anderson’s condition or prognosis was available. The family has asked that all requests for updates be directed to their spokesman, Dan Ewald, the Tigers’ former public relations director and Anderson’s longtime friend.


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What a wonderful career. I can't get over the fact he was all of 41 years old when he first led The Machine to a title in 1975. He surely looked 20 years older than that. There's a video out there of him being interviewed in Detroit this Summer. Came back from California for his golf tournament. I don't recommend watching it unless you're curious about seeing a man in failing health. The only interesting thing about it was the juxtaposition of it to a similar interview conducted only months earlier. Knowing little about dementia, it's clear that it can work quickly and with nastiness.


Posnanski, author of the fairly recent The Machine: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds posted a terrific piece about George/Sparky over on his site. I'll post the intro and strongly encourage anyone interested to follow this link to the entire thing - http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2010/11/g...and-sparky.html


George and Sparky

"Of course. We all have to lead more than one life."

-- Robert Frost, A Visit With Robert Frost


* * *


He was, like many men, two men. The big difference is that in addition to being two men he also had two names. He was George Anderson, Georgie to friends who liked gardening, watching the news on television and sleeping in the sun. George was the son of a hard-edged housepainter in inner city Los Angeles. George dreamed about baseball, but he sold cars and not especially well. He was a soft touch. He never could sell cars to people who he knew could not afford it. His boss. Milt Blish used to funnel a few dollars his way, just to keep him afloat.


Yes, he was George Anderson, the kind of man who could not send back a steak because he did not want to be a bother, the kind of man who would read the Bible sometimes as he tried to make sense of the world around him, the kind of man who would not write notes, not ever, because he felt embarrassed by his spelling and a little bit empty because he didn't learn much in school. "I only had a high school education," George used to say, "And believe me, I had to cheat to get that."


No. Wait. It wasn't George Anderson who said that. No ... that's Sparky.



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