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Good-bye Captain Hook, you did a great job

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By Mike Aldridge

This past week, one of the all time great managers lost his battle with dementia.  
I won’t dwell on the horror of this disease, but only say that according to reports hospice had been called in only the day before he died.
Hopefully he didn’t suffer.  
I want to go over what I recall of Sparky Anderson’s career as a manager, the first if not the only manager to win a world championship in both leagues.  
George Lee “Sparky” Anderson was an unknown former Philadelphia Phillie’s second basemen who had managed in the Phillies’ minor league system when the Reds brought him in as manager in 1970.  
He had a lifetime .218 batting average in his one year in the majors (1959) with Philadelphia.
Anderson replaced the likeable Dave Bristol and the local news media was questioning the move.  “Sparky Who?” was the headline in the Cincinnati paper.  
All the fiery Anderson did was lead the team, which was to become the Big Red Machine, to the 1970 pennant.  The Reds lost in five games to the Baltimore Orioles in the Series, but the dye was cast for the making of the dominant Machine.  
The Reds faltered some in 1971, but won the pennant again in 1972, but again lost in the series this time to the powerful Oakland A’s.  
One of the factors for the improvement from 1971 to 1972 was the trade that stands number one in the records of the Houston Astros as the worst in the team’s history.
In this trade, the Reds gained the Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, the Machine’s center fielder Cesar Geronimo and leading starting pitcher Jack Billingham, as well as third baseman Dennis Menke for Lee May, Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart.  
This trade was the final move to put together the dominant nine of the 1970’s.
While the Big Red Machine had great players, the conductor of the baseball symphony they played was Anderson.  His line up mastery and his ability to get the most from a not so talented pitching staff was the edge that the Reds needed to overcome a Dodger team that was also loaded with talent.  
History shows what a great team the Reds were, but it took some outstanding managing in the early part of Anderson’s career to overtake the Dodgers.  
After winning the World Series in 1975 over the Red Sox and in 1976 sweeping the Yankees, the Reds aged a little and finished second in 1977 and 1978.  
At the end of the 1978 season, the “brilliant” general manager Dick Wagner replaced Anderson at the helm of the Reds.  
The Reds’ loss was the Detroit Tigers gain as the American League East’s perennial second division finishers hire Anderson in 1979.  It took Sparky until 1984, but he forged the Tigers who had not won a series since 1968 into a World Series winner over the Dodgers.  
He retired after the 1985 season to live in California with his family.  
The great one was a regular on World Series broadcasts and other baseball productions as he was well liked and respected in the sport.  
He was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 to complete his great career.  
At 76 years of age, George “Sparky “Anderson left us too soon. But he contributed to the lives of others while he was here and we are better off for him being on earth.  
So long, Sparky, glad you were here.
• • • • • •
I want to wish all of the veterans of the Armed Services a Happy Veterans Day.  Thanks for all you have sacrificed to make this country great.