George Lee "Sparky" Anderson (born February 22, 1934 in Bridgewater, South Dakota) is ranked fourth all-time for career managerial wins in Major League Baseball (behind Connie Mack, John McGraw and Tony La Russa) and is the only manager in the history of Major League Baseball to win the World Series while leading clubs in both leagues. He piloted the National League's Cincinnati Reds to the 1975 and 1976 championships, then added a third title in 1984 with the Detroit Tigers of the American League. It is interesting to note that either manager in the 1984 Series would have been the first to win in both leagues, since San Diego Padres (NL) manager Dick Williams had previously won the series with the Oakland Athletics (AL).
Anderson was a "good field, no-hit" middle infielder as a player. He played one full season in the major leagues, as the regular second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959. However, a .218 average with no power ended his big-league career at that point.
He played the next four seasons at Triple-A Toronto in the International League, but never got a second chance in the majors. Finally, in 1964, Anderson moved into the manager's job in Toronto. He won four pennants as a minor league manager between 1964 and 1968, then spent 1969 as a coach for the San Diego Padres. Finally, in 1970, Anderson was named manager of the Reds.
He won 102 games and the pennant in his first season, but then lost the World Series in five games to the Baltimore Orioles. After an injury-plagued 1971, the Reds came back and won another pennant in 1972, losing to the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. They took the National League West division title in 1973, then finished a close second to the Los Angeles Dodgers a year later.
Finally, in 1975, the Reds blew the division open by winning 108 games, swept the National League Championship Series and then edged the Boston Red Sox in a drama-filled, seven-game World Series. They repeated in 1976 by winning 102 games and ultimately sweeping the New York Yankees in the Series. During this time, Anderson became known as "Captain Hook" for his penchant for taking out a starting pitcher at the first sign of weakness and going to his bullpen, relying heavily on closers Will McEnaney and Rawly Eastwick.
When the aging Reds finished second to the Dodgers in each of the next two seasons, Anderson was fired. The Reds won the division title again in 1979 but lost three straight to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the league championship series. They would not make the playoffs again until 1990.
He moved on to the young Detroit Tigers after being hired as their new manager on June 14, 1979. The Tigers became a winning club almost immediately, but didn't get into contention until 1983, when they finished second.
In 1984, Detroit opened the season 35-5 (a major league record) and breezed to a 104-58 record. They swept the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and then beat the San Diego Padres in the World Series for Anderson's third world title. After the season, Anderson won the first of his two Manager of the Year Awards with the Tigers.
Anderson led the Tigers to the majors' best record in 1987, but the team was upset in the ALCS by the Minnesota Twins. He won his second Manager of the Year Award that year. After contending again in 1988, the team collapsed a year later.
He probably did his best managerial job in 1991, when the Tigers finished last in batting average, first in batting strikeouts and near the bottom of the league in most pitching categories, but still led their division in late August before settling for a second-place finish. The secret was a power-packed lineup led by sluggers Cecil Fielder, Mickey Tettleton and Rob Deer which led the league in home runs and walks that season.
He retired from managing after the 1995 season with a lifetime record of 2194-1834, for a .545 percentage. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 2000. He was also inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame the same year.
- Signed as an amateur free agent by Brooklyn Dodgers (1953).
- Traded by Los Angeles Dodgers to Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Rip Repulski, Jim Golden and Gene Snyder (December 23, 1958).
- In 1979, Sparky guest-starred as himself on an episode of (appropriately enough) WKRP in Cincinnati. The episode was titled "Sparky."
- Sparky earned the nickname "Captain Hook" because of his tendency to pull underperforming pitchers early in the game.
- Sparky Anderson's managerial statistics at Baseball-Reference.com