The thing about Sparky Anderson is that he was so deliberately low key that it’s difficult today to grasp his true legacy.
And that is extremely unfair because he deserves so much better…
But here’s the thing.
When Sparky Anderson came in back in 1979, I was 13. And a sports fanatic.
And not just the Tigers, but every Detroit Pro franchise, lost.
If the Lions reached .500 that was about as much as you could hope for as a Detroit fan.
In any sport.
The Wolverines won, everyone else lost.
That was reality for a decade, or in other words my sports life till that time.
Then Sparky showed up.
It honestly seemed futile when he was hired, not because there wasn’t any talent, but the Tigers just didn’t win. Nor did any other Detroit sports team.
But then suddenly they started to.
You tend to point back to the players; but the reality is the Tigers had plenty of good players throughout the 70’s, but that didn’t mean wins.
Without checking, and having forcibly removed sports from my brain for the past decade; Mark Fidrych went 19-9 on a 71-91 team in 1976. (I’ll check myself on that after I post this).
But low and behold, Sparky Anderson did turn the Tigers around.
He launched a rebirth of professional sports in Detroit; and did so with absolute class and grace. To have Ernie Harwell as an announcer and Sparky Anderson as a coach was almost a gift from God to the city of Detroit and State of Michigan; it didn’t really help Detroit much but I sure stayed tuned in much longer in life than my otherwise waning interest in Baseball would have warranted because of the product they put in front of all of us every day.
Remember Anderson telling Kirk Gibson, “he doesn’t want to pitch to you”; and then Gibson showing just how smart Sparky was by ending the series with his right field blast?
Sparky won when he was capable of getting the win. When he didn’t have talent, he was just an ambassador to the game in defeat.
Detroit had a legendary coach once. His name was Sparky Anderson.
Rest in Peace.