By Cary Osborne
Signal Sports Editor
Tuesday January 30, 2007
For years, reporters and the public have peppered Major League Baseball Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson for his opinion on Pete Rose.
On Thursday, Anderson was even asked the question again at the Knollwood Country Club during the College of the Canyons Athletic Hall of Fame Induction where he was the keynote speaker.
He spoke for nearly 20 minutes, then fielded questions.
Then it came up.
A man toward the back of the room stood up and asked: "Does Pete Rose deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?"
Anderson didn't mind any of the questions or attention Thursday.
He was a spry 73 years old.
Anderson bounced around the banquet room, signed autographs, and made joke after joke after joke even tossing out a nursery rhyme.
Before the event started, he took some time out to discuss a similar question to that of Pete Rose, who was banned from baseball in 1989 for gambling and is ineligible for the Hall.
On Jan. 9, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn exceeded the necessary 75 percent and were elected to the Hall.
Mark McGwire's name was checked off on 23.5 percent of the ballots leaving him out.
Opinions of McGwire, who has been under a cloud of suspicion since admitting to have taken the dietary supplement Androstenedione during his playing career and refusing to answer questions before the House Government Reform Committee on March 17, 2005, have varied.
Anderson, who managed against McGwire when he led the Detroit Tigers and managed Rose from 1970 to 1978 while skippering the Cincinnati Reds, said past steroid use would be extremely hard to prove.
More importantly, Anderson is not so sure McGwire's numbers warrant him a spot in Cooperstown.
"I can honestly say this, I have never looked at his records other than I know he has 500 or more home runs," Anderson said. "The other part I don't believe is really startling."
Some saw McGwire as a one-trick pony.
He hit 583 home runs, seventh all-time, but he had only 1,626 hits and batted .263 for his 16-year career.
Similarly, San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds is approaching Hank Aaron's hallowed all-time home runs record under a cloud of suspicion.
Anderson spoke favorably of Bonds, though.
"When he broke in out of college out of Arizona State in Pittsburgh, when I saw him in spring training, I said, 'This young man is going to be a great one,' and that's what happened," Anderson said.
On the Bonds-steroid issue, Anderson said: "If you can't prove something than you don't have nothing. If you remember back, oh I'd say it was about three months ago in the season and (the media reported) (the federal government) was going to indict Barry Bonds and he finished the whole season. I didn't see no indictment."
Anderson's opinions come from experience, not hearsay.
He doesn't hang around ballparks.
Interestingly, he said he doesn't even watch baseball anymore.
"If I sit down in front of the TV and I'm watching a game, is there anything that could happen, if I watched 162, that I haven't seen?" he asked.
Anderson said he doesn't go to ballparks anymore because he would be a burden.
"If I come to the ballpark and you're the manager on both teams, do you have to stop and talk to me?" he said. "I don't want them to do that."
Anderson retired from baseball after the 1995 season.
He managed the "Big Red Machine" of the 1970s winning the World Series in 1975 and 1976 for the Reds.
After skippering Cincinnati from 1970-1978, he took over as manager of the Detroit Tigers in 1979 and stayed until 1995.
In 1984, he became the only manager in Major League history to win a World Series in the National and American leagues.
That was until his good friend Tony LaRussa, who Anderson said he calls frequently, achieved the feat after his St. Louis Cardinals won the series this past season.
LaRussa won a title in 1989 with the Oakland Athletics.
"Tony, remember, there's only one first," Anderson said he told his friend.
After retirement, Anderson did color commentary for the Angels from 1996-1998.
In 2000, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
He threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 2 of the World Series this past season, when his former Tigers played LaRussa's Cardinals.
He said it was the first time he'd been to a ballpark in a long time.
"Nothing," Anderson said was his involvement in baseball. "And will not be involved at all. I've always said and always told my players you do the very best you can do, which I did the very best I could do. I'll never be a green fly hanging around the ballpark."
Anderson resides in Thousand Oaks with his wife of 53 years, Carol.
He's an avid USC football fan and friend of head coach Pete Carroll.
In fact, Anderson said, he grew up in a house right behind the right field foul pole of USC's Dedeaux Field, named for Anderson's mentor and legendary Trojans baseball coach Rod Dedeaux.
As for Rose - Anderson had a definitive answer.
"I think if he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame then what are we doing with it," Anderson said. "If you have more hits than Ty Cobb, you belong in the Hall of Fame."