Reds fans were taken aback when Sparky Anderson showed up in Cincinnati for his first day as a big league manager, an unknown taking over baseball’s first professional team.
By the time he was done, this man with the shock of white hair and schoolboy nickname would produce a considerable list of achievements that featured three World Series titles – including crowns in each league – and a Hall of Fame entry on his résumé.
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Anderson, who directed the Big Red Machine to back-to-back championships and won another in Detroit, died Thursday from complications of dementia in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 76. A day earlier, his family said he’d been placed in hospice care.
Anderson was the first manager to win World Series titles in both leagues and the only manager to lead two franchises in career wins.
“Sparky was, by far, the best manager I ever played for,” said former Reds star Pete Rose, the game’s career hits leader. “He understood people better than anyone I ever met. His players loved him, he loved his players, and he loved the game of baseball.
“There isn’t another person in baseball like Sparky Anderson. He gave his whole life to the game.”
Anderson’s teams in Cincinnati — featuring Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Rose — won crowns in 1975 and 1976 and rank among the most powerful of all time. Led by Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell, Anderson won with the Tigers in 1984.
“He was a good guy,” former Tigers pitcher Jack Morris said, choking up over the news. “Baseball will have very few people like Sparky. He was a unique individual. He was a character with a great passion and love for the game.”
THANKS, AND BYE-BYE
The champion San Francisco Giants declined to exercise their $9.5 million option on World Series MVP Edgar Renteria on Thursday, instead paying him a $500,000 buyout.
It’s no surprise because the 34-year-old Renteria is considering retirement after an injury-plagued season. Still, the Giants had to make the decision only three days after Renteria’s tiebreaking three-run homer off Cliff Lee in the seventh inning Monday night helped San Francisco win the franchise’s first title since moving West in 1958.
New York Mets equipment manager Charlie Samuels, who served in that role for the past 27 seasons, has been suspended indefinitely without pay after the club learned that he has been linked to a law-enforcement investigation into gambling, a source confirmed.
The New York Times first reported Thursday that Samuels is in the middle of a gambling probe, which could have further consequences for the Mets.
The Red Sox are exercising their $12.5 million option on David Ortiz rather than giving the designated hitter the new multiyear contract he preferred. The Red Sox didn’t want to commit big money beyond 2011 to a player who turns 35 in two weeks, has had trouble hitting left-handers and rarely plays in the field. … Manager Ron Washington signed a new two-year contract with the AL champion Texas Rangers, a move that had been expected since before the playoffs began. … The Colorado Rockies declined their $7 million option on left-hander Jeff Francis, one of the top pitchers in franchise history.