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.