Do right by Sparky

The support has always been there, but with Sparky Anderson in town again to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1984 team there is a new sense of urgency. It is time to get Sparky’s name on the wall at Comerica Park.

Tom Gage wrote about it last week. Ian Casselberry wrote about it yesterday. Both expressed the case wonderfully and I don’t have much to add – except that after seeing Sparky speak to the crowd Monday night this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Anderson did not look well. Quite frankly he never has, but the aging process has accelerated for him dramatically since I saw him in 2006 at The Henry Ford. Sparky was still lively and engaging Monday night when he had a microphone at his disposal. As Gage said, “if you give him an inch he’ll talk a mile.”  Then again I don’t know if Sparky couldn’t be engaging*.

*I saw him in person at a media event at The Henry Ford museum a couple years ago. I couldn’t take my ears off him. You never knew what he was going to say next, and not in a Gary Sheffield sort of shocking way. In a “this story is going to be awesome, I can just feel it sort of way.”  Perhaps the most captivating speaker in Detroit sports history. Not grammatically correct by any means, but captivating.

But it was interesting on this night that Sparky while he had the microphone he thanked Mike Ilitch. Presumably there is some sort of rift between the two and that is what is holding up any sort of permanent recognition. Presumably related to Anderson refusing to manage replacement players.

It’s not that Sparky isn’t recognized as a part of Tigers lore. His number is unofficially retired. He has a prominent place on one of the historical kiosks inside Comerica Park. There was even a Sparky Anderson day a few years back where he rode around the field in a convertible and he said a few words (I don’t remember the speech, but it was probably more than a few)But there is something preventing his number from officially being retired, or at the very least having his name added to the wall with the other Hall of Famers.

On the latter point, it may be related to the fact he went in to the Hall with a Reds cap. All the other names (except Harwell’s) on that wall have an English D on their plaques. It is a point that most Tigers fans understand and have accepted. I don’t think it sullies the wall at all.

Regardless, it doesn’t seem that Anderson will be making too many return trips to Detroit. And the danger in waiting too long means that the one person who would appreciate the statue the most might not get to see it.


  1. Andrew

    September 29, 2009 at 8:33 am

    The Tigers need to let bygones be bygones and officially retire Sparky’s number and put his name up on the wall. Frankly, I’m glad he stood up against managing replacement players and applaud him for taking a stand that others might have wanted to, but were too worried about how it would affect them. Sparky stood up for the integrity of the game.

  2. epheeZ

    September 29, 2009 at 8:56 am

    The ’84 team lined the infield foul lines with their leader Sparky at home plate.These gaurians of the infield stood with joyful faces, for they knew what baseball can do for our resilient city. It has been written many times that our Tigers have carried the city during its toughest times, and yesterday was a testament to the players understanding of that.

    Born in ’82 I have only known the ’84 team in retrospect, however, while at the game/ceremony last night it seemed that Sparky was more a Tiger than he ever was a Red. With his crooked finger pointed to the Old English on his cap Sparky beamed with the pride of a detroit auto worker.

    Thanks to all the “blessed” ’84 boys!

  3. Stephen

    September 29, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone

  4. rings

    September 29, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Its interesting that you mentioned Sheffield in your post, Bilfer, as he’s the only one to selfishly – and disgracefully, in my view – request and receive Trammell’s number, which should also be on the wall.
    While I support the sentiments expressed here in honoring Anderson, at least Tram was a career-long Tiger, whereas Sparky made his “choice” between us and Cinci long ago when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    • billfer

      September 29, 2009 at 11:01 pm

      Tram is a separate issue. I agree he should have a statue as well.

  5. Kathy

    September 29, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Got a question for you: is this game going to be broadcast on FSN? Anybody?

  6. Kathy

    September 29, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Nevermind. I found the answer. It is being televised.

  7. michblk

    September 29, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Horton doesn’t have a HOF Plaque. Put Sparky on the wall.

  8. Detroit Expat

    September 29, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Sparky didn’t choose the Reds the Baseball Hall of Fame picked the cap on the plaque. In fact Sparky said he couldn’t choose and and was fine going in as a Red since they gave him his first break. Both Sparky and Tram should be on the wall.

    • billfer

      September 29, 2009 at 10:59 pm

      Nope. Inductees got to choose back then. It was later that the decision was taken out of their hands. Sparky chose the Reds because they gave him his break.

      • Coleman

        September 29, 2009 at 11:08 pm

        And if the Reds hadn’t, the Tigers would have likely never hired him..

  9. Ghost of Tigers past

    October 4, 2009 at 10:13 am

    My wife & I met Sparky at a booking signing a few years ago.Nice man,and he will talk.I wish I had the chance to talk more with him.An excellent read is Joe Posnanski’s”The Machine”.It’s about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds race to win it all.It describes how Sparky ran the team.About Rose,Morgan,Bench & Perez.