Sparky Anderson (Photo: Mark Cunningham/Getty Images Sport)
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) - Sparky Anderson, the white-haired Hall of Fame manager who directed Cincinnati's Big Red Machine to back-to-back World Series championships and won another one in Detroit, died Thursday. He was 76.
Anderson died from complications from dementia, family spokesman Dan Ewald said. A day earlier, Anderson's family said he had been placed in hospice care.
Anderson was the first manager to win World Series titles in both leagues and the only manager to lead two franchises in career wins.
His total of 2,194 wins as a manager were the third highest when he retired after the 1995 season, trailing only Connie Mack and John McGraw.
Jack Morris helped the Tigers win the 1984 title. The rugged pitcher choked up during a phone conversation with The Associated Press from his home in the Twin Cities when he was informed of Anderson's death.
"Wow. He died way too young. I got a lot of phone calls yesterday about the hospice and the dementia, neither of which I knew about. I wasn't prepared for this. I don't know what to say. I'm kind of shocked," Morris said.
"He was a big part of my life, for sure. He had a lot to do with molding me professionally and taught me a lot about perseverance. He was a good guy," he said. "Baseball will have very few people like Sparky. He was a unique individual. He was a character with a great passion and love for the game."
George "Sparky" Anderson got his nickname in the minor leagues because of his spirited play. He made it to the majors for only one season, batting .218 for the Phillies in 1959.
Anderson learned to control a temper that nearly scuttled his fledgling career as a manager in the minors, and went on to become one of baseball's best at running a team. His Reds teams that won crowns in 1975 and 1976 rank among the most powerful of all time.
And Anderson won with a humility that couldn't obscure his unique ability to manage people.
"I got good players, stayed out of their way, let them win a lot and then just hung around for 26 years," he said during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in 2000.
Always affable and ever talkative, Anderson was equally popular among players, fans and media.
"To be around me, you have to be a little bit cuckoo," Anderson said on the day he resigned from the Tigers after the 1995 season. "One day it's written in concrete, the next day it's written in sand. I always felt if I didn't change my mind every 24 hours, people would find me boring."
Ewald knew Anderson for about 35 years as a former Tigers spokesman and baseball writer for the Detroit News.
"Sparky Anderson will always be measured by his number of victories and his place in baseball's Hall of Fame. But all of that is overshadowed by the type of person he was. Sparky not only spiked life into baseball, he gave life in general something to smile about. Never in my lifetime have I met a man as gentle, kind and courageous as Sparky," he said.
Anderson currently ranks sixth all-time, also trailing Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press