If there was anybody who understood how fortunate he has been, it's Sparky Anderson.
Trust me, he'd be the last one complaining about his plight right now. Just isn't his style.
He grew up in a rough area of Los Angeles and fought his way, at times literally, to the major leagues for a season despite talent that suggested he belong permanently in the minor leagues.
As well as Sparky understood the game, he knew people even better. He was unique in his understanding how to pull certain levers to get the most out of his clubs.
I was the Tigers beat writer for this newspaper the last 10 years he managed the team, and spent countless hours in his office just talking. I found him in Lakeland the night before he refused to manage replacement players.
"There is no way I am going to do that," he said. "There is no way I will be a part of the mockery of this game."
He stood by his beliefs. That lone decision probably cost him millions of dollars. He likely would have gotten another job after he left the Tigers had he not made it.
Sure thing, the next day, he spoke to the media and was gone. And wasn't the Tigers' manager much longer after the players returned. And I think he only lasted that extra two years because of his contract was hefty.
Sparky had this thing about not putting a player in the major leagues who didn't belong. It just wasn't in his DNA. He'd be pulling veterans over from the minor league camp on the last day of spring training, trying to find a legitimate major league player for the 25th spot on the roster. There was no way he'd put a kid in the major leagues before he was ready.
Well, sort of.
At the same time, he had this quirky personality where he'd present a spring phenom every year. Man, I wrote a lot of stories about Mike Laga and Torey Lovullo. Remember when he said, "If you don't like Dave Rucker, you don't like ice cream." One of the great lines of all time.
I've always looked at Sparky as the ultimate character with character. He was incredibly fun to be around. There were times when he could mean and nasty, too, but only when necessary. He was a tough man. His players didn't dare cross him or the line.
He is hospice now with dementia
, and has been in declining health for a number of years. He is in hospice because there is concern his brain will stop sending signals to the remainder of his organs, which is necessary for life. I can only, like everyone in this town, wish Sparky the best.
Because he sure gave us his best.Random Thoughts
NBA draft guru Chad Ford has a list of five mid-major college players he sees going relatively this upcoming draft. Keith Benson from Oakland is not one of them, but Ray McCallum
Jr from Detroit. Kenneth Faried
Leonard from San Diego State, Ellis Harris from Gonzaga
Murray from LaSalle
are on the list. He projects them going anywhere from No. 23 (Faried
) to No. 46 (McCallum
) in the draft.
Benson, the Golden Grizzlies' 6-11 center, isn't even mentioned in the article.
What does it mean? Depends on what you think of Chad Ford. I think he is certainly informative, but have cast wary his way since he was so far off on Darko Milicic
. It was unbelievable, really, how much he hyped up that kid.
- The Pistons are in serious trouble. John Kuester's spot as coach is tenuous at best right now. The Pistons will likely fall to 0-5 at Atlanta tonight. Could "Q" be coaching for his job Friday at the Palace against the Bobcats, who are off to a slow start. If the Pistons can't win that game, what game will they win?
Labels: Sparky Anderson