Sparky's voice still resonates now, always
BY MIKE LOPRESTI | GANNETT NEWS SERVICE
DETROIT - Sparky Anderson looks a little tired now. His hair is whiter - though when was it ever dark, puberty? One hand occasionally shakes, and he sometimes mentions understanding that he is closer to the end than the beginning.
But the eyes are bright, the voice is alive and the words can still be the most entertaining show in town. At 72, Sparky Anderson remains one of the best things to ever happen to baseball.
He threw out of the ceremonial first pitch Sunday before Game 2 of the World Series, in the city where he led a champion 22 years ago. That one, paired with the two in Cincinnati, make him the only manager in history to ever win the World Series in both leagues. Someone will match him this week, since Detroit's Jim Leyland has already won in the National League and St. Louis' Tony La Russa has already done it in the American.
"I've always felt," La Russa said of Anderson Sunday night, "that he's the most complete manager that I've ever been around.
"Some guys had his expertise and were kind of reluctant to share it with everybody. I was just one of the guys who went up to him and asked him, and he would give you everything he had."
That's Sparky Anderson, his heart as wide as a highway, who could fill a reporter's notebook like a bartender fills a mug. He had his own media session Sunday, and it is best to get out of the way and let the man speak.
On the Tigers being back in the World Series after 22 years, much of that time futile: "This gives the city what it's supposed to have ... They have given the city back to their sport," he said.
On baseball's popularity: "I hate to break the sad news to football, but nothing will ever take the place of baseball ... When it goes bad, call me, because I won't be around. I can be reached by under-the-ground contact."
On what makes a successful manager: "You're not going to hit the ball. You're not going to pitch it. You're not going to throw it. So you basically are sitting on your big fanny on the bench. You're not going to do anything, except you must know when you have to pull the trigger (on a pitcher). If you don't know that, God help you."
On his success: "I was so lucky that I feel ashamed that you could be that lucky."
On whether he'd like to see Barry Bonds break Hank Aaron's home-run record: "I would never say that, and I'm dancing with you now to tell you the truth, but I don't believe that anybody should wish either way. Let him play and what he does, he does. But remember this, baseball is only as good and as strong as the records we break."
On why he hesitated in accepting Sunday's invitation, not wanting to be a distraction: "I don't like to be out on the field and be interviewed while the other two managers are there watching you. This is Jimmy Leyland's and Tony La Russa's hour."
On the hitting ability of Albert Pujols: "I'm going to tell you something, that ain't fair. He's the only guy that I honestly can say I truly enjoy watching hit right now."
On Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya coming out of the bullpen throwing 102-mile-an-hour fastballs: "That's sinful."
On being asked by a friend every spring his predictions for the World Series: "I haven't been very successful ... I said it's easy for me this year. I said the Cardinals are going to win the National, the Detroit Tigers are going to win the American ... That is one of the only honest things I've said in a long time."
Then Sparky Anderson was gone. Except, he never will be.