George "Sparky" Anderson, who died Nov. 4 at 76, is a rightful member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first manager to win World Series titles with teams in both the National and American leagues. Yet in addition to being a bona fide winner, he was a throwback to the days when managers and coaches weren't as self-serious.
Anderson, whose hair went white in his 20s, could lead like Tony La Russa or Pat Riley or Coach K--polished guys who meet with corporate clients to impart their wisdom, for a fee--yet speak plainly like Casey Stengel. "I truly don't know the language," he told SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in 1993. "It's like there and their. What's the difference, as long as you know there's a there there?"
Anderson may have hated spelling, but in the dugout, no one was smarter. "The players make the manager," he said. "It's never the other way." Not really; it was because he ceded the spotlight to stars like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Jack Morris that Anderson's teams played harder and better and delivered championships.
Anderson's one-liners--"Me carrying a briefcase is like a hot dog wearing earrings"--were funny and often wise. "I've got my faults," he said, "but living in the past isn't one of them. There's no future in it." He also noted that "losing hurts twice as bad as winning feels good." Luckily for Anderson, he won plenty. But without him, baseball hurts. Twofold.