Thank You, Sparky

Sparky Anderson went 2,194-1,834 managing for the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers. In that time, his teams won three World Series titles, including the, immortal-to-us, 1984 year in Detroit. He was the first manager in baseball history to win titles in both the AL and NL. He won the Manager of the Year twice and is sixth all-time in managerial wins. In 2000, he was enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

You probably knew all that. But Sparky Anderson was much more than numbers and stats. He was a man that had an intense love for both baseball and his family. And he was remarkable in his ability to keep them separated from each other, yet devote all his passion to them equally.

On the field, he was Sparky, the fireplug, quotable, loveable, white-haired leader that everyone could rally behind. He was the unquestioned leader that shaped the minds and careers of Tiger greats like Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, and countless others.

At home, he was George, a quiet man dedicated to his loved ones and his community. There, he was a proud husband and father that everyone loved even more than even those on the baseball diamond did.

In a world of declining role models, he was one of the finest I can think of.

Tomorrow, the Tigers finally retire Sparky’s number. It’s a shame they have waited so long to do so, but that’s another matter. No, tomorrow will be a special day for the tens of thousands who have loved and admired the man over the years. As a youngster, I worshipped Sparky and grew to do nothing but respect him more and more as I got older.

I’m going to be there in the crowd tomorrow to remember the man, say goodbye, and most importantly to me, say thank you once last time.

Bless you, Sparky. You were one of a kind.