Sparky Anderson: Honoring a Legend

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Sparky Anderson: Honoring a Legend
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers will be honoring their former manager, Sparky Anderson, by retiring his No. 11 jersey later in the season. The Tigers will also honor him by wearing a commemorative patch and raise a banner. 

For many Tigers fans, this is a long time coming. Baseball in Detroit is making a comeback and everyone remembers Sparky Anderson. However, the Tigers should have done this a long time ago. It would have been nice for Anderson to see his numbers raised into the rafters.

There have been many speculations on why it took the Tigers so long to retire to his number. Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments is when Anderson was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he wore a Cincinnati Reds baseball cap. His plaque also has him wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform. The reason he chose have be inducted as a Red was to honor his former boss, Bob Howsam, former GM of the Reds.

Anderson was Detroit's manager from 1979-1995. Many believe he was forced into retirement because he would not replace players in spring training. Anderson had to deal with one of baseball's lowest points, the baseball strike of 1994. Anderson could sense the game was changing and decided to retire after the '95 season. 

He left the game with a record of, 2,194–1,834, for a .545 winning percentage. He has the sixth most wins as a manager in MLB history. Although he led the Reds' "Big Red Machine" to two World Series Championships, he is most remembered for his 1984 Detroit Tigers World Series Championship. His coaching helped the Tigers win the World Series. He often pulled pitchers that showed the first sign of weakness and depended heavily on closers.

Sparky Anderson and the 1984 Detroit Tigers 25th anniversary

Detroit recently lost Ernie Harwell and the most heartfelt speech given was by his close friend, Anderson. Anderson gave a tear-jerking interview remembering his friend. He recognized how much passion Harwell had for Tigers baseball.

The last time Anderson was at the home of the Tigers, Comerica Park, it was to honor the 1984 team. Nothing was bigger in Detroit than Tigers baseball in '84, and in 2009, the City remembered them together one last time. Anderson said that this was probably going to be the last time the original team would be together and Anderson was right. 

Anderson has been with Detroit in the best and worst of times. In the 80s, the Tigers were looking great. They won championships, pennants and awards. In the 90s, the Tigers were looking terrible, but no matter what, he always knew how to make players and fans feel good. He was media friendly and gave much hype for up-and-coming players.

With all Anderson has done for Detroit, why did it take the Tigers so long to retire his number? He even founded CATCH (Caring Athletes Teamed for Children's and Henry Ford hospitals) in 1987, a charity that’s still around today. No one really knows why it took so long but at least he will finally be getting honored in Detroit. 

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