Thursday, November 04, 2010

Sparky Anderson

Those of you from Michigan--or if you follow sports at all--are probably aware that Sparky Anderson passed away on Thursday. A sad day as another legend passes on. He won two World Series titles as a manager with the Cincinnati Reds and another with the Detroit Tigers (in 1984). While I was only four years old at the time, I've read and heard so much about that '84 team I feel like I was at every game of what was an incredible season.

But my favorite memory of Sparky is a personal one. And it's not the opportunity that I had to shake his hand at Tiger Stadium. It's of correspondence we exchanged back when I was nine years old.

The Tigers were in the midst of another losing season. The All Star break was approaching and the Tigers were in last place (this was most definitely not the 1984 season, when they led the AL East wire-to-wire). I wanted to encourage Sparky and the team so I wrote him a letter, talking about the 1914 Boston "Miracle" Braves. That was a team that got off to a miserable start and appeared to be entrenched in last place for the season until they turned a corner and went on to win the World Series in dominating fashion.

A few weeks after writing the letter (and receiving a signed photograph in response), I was watching the post-game show following a Tigers win. The broadcaster was interviewing Sparky, who had whispered something to an umpire immediately following the end of the game, about what he had said to the ump. Sparky's response about knocked me over: "Remember the 1914 Miracle Braves." Those weren't his exact words, I'm sure, but as best I can remember 21 years later. Of course, what was a nine year old to do when he hears a legendary sports figure reference a letter he wrote on national television? Well write another one, of course.

Sparky wrote back--on yet another photograph--telling me that indeed my letter had prompted him to mention that to the umpire after that game. As you can imagine, most of my childhood was spent with two signed photos of Sparky Anderson hanging from my wall.

Sparky was a one-of-a-kind manager and will go down as one of my all-time favorite sports figures. Tigers baseball has now lost two greats this year: Ernie and Sparky.

Click here for Mitch Albom's take on the passing of George Lee Anderson.