Sparky in Hospice Care
Tigers legend Sparky Anderson in hospice care
By GENE MYERS, MATT HELMS and ELISHA ANDERSON
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS
Sparky Anderson, the all-time leader among Tigers managers in victories, visibility and inimitable quotations, has been placed in hospice care, according to a statement released today from his family.
Anderson is 76.
The family said Anderson was suffering from complications resulting from dementia and he was at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
“It’s the type of ailment that takes a toll over time,” said family spokesperson Dan Ewald, who was in California with Anderson about three weeks ago.
The statement also said: The Anderson family — wife, Carol; sons Lee and Albert; and daughter Shirley Englebrecht – “wishes to express appreciation to all friends and fans for the support and kindness they have shown throughout Sparky’s career and retirement.”
Ewald, who has been friends with Anderson for 35 years, spent about a week with Anderson in October. They talked about some of old times they shared in baseball during the trip.
One of the stories the pair relived was a trip to Minnesota to play the Twins in 1987. They hailed a cab to go to the ballpark. Ewald paid for the fare and wanted to give the driver an extra bonus because they were in the playoffs.
The next day the two grabbed another cab and somehow got the same driver. On their way to the ballpark, Anderson and Ewald nudged each other signaling they wanted to play a joke on the driver. The two start talking loudly about how badly they were going to beat the Twins, so the driver, who was a Twins fan, would hear them and say something.
But the driver didn’t respond. After a while, Ewald tapped the driver on the shoulder and said, “Do you know who this is?” He pointed at Anderson thinking he might know.
The driver looked at Anderson and said, “No, I don’t recognize him, but I recognize you. You gave me a big tip the other day.” That gave Anderson a good laugh.
“The little stories in baseball, particularly with Sparky, are the ones that are the most precious,” Ewald said.
Anderson managed the Tigers from the middle of the 1979 season through 1995. His 17 seasons are most in club history. The runner-up is Hughie Jennings, who managed Ty Cobb’s Tigers for 14 seasons in the first part of the 20th Century. Anderson beat Jennings’ record for most victories by a Tigers manager by 200 (1,331-1,131).
Throughout his years near or at the top of baseball through his 2000 election to the Hall of Fame, Anderson rejected the airs of celebrity, no matter how prominent he became. He forever seemed as happy to see people he knew — and didn’t know — as they did to see him.
The Bridgewater, S.D., native, born George Lee Anderson, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, deflecting credit for the honor.
"The players are the ones who earn their way into Hall of Fame," he sad in his acceptance speech in Cooperstown, N.Y. "Managers like me, we just ride in on their backs."
A second baseman, Anderson played one season for the 1959 Phillies. He managed the Cincinnati Reds 1970-78, winning the World Series in 1975 and 1976. He was named the American League manager of the year in 1984 and 1987. His record with the Tigers was 1,331 wins, 1,248 losses.
After he left the Tigers, Anderson kept ties to Michigan through CATCH, an organization he started in 1987 that raises money to help sick and at-risk kids. For years Anderson returned for CATCH's annual golf event in Northville.
Since its inception, CATCH has rung up about $4 million for Henry Ford Hospital and Children's Hospital of Michigan with support from golfers and sponsors such as Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Sales USA.
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