Baseball's Top Managers and How They Got That Way
by Leonard Koppett
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He hadn't gone to college, but he now had the most thorough education in Rickey system baseball imaginable. His managers had been George Sherger, Gordie Holt, Tommy Holmes, Greg Mulleavy, and Clay Bryant, all insider legends of the Dodger system.
The Phillies were in the process of finishing last for four straight years in the National League's last four seasons as an eight-team league. In 1958, Eddie Sawyer, who had won Philadelphia's last pennant with the 1950 Whiz Kids, had come back from retirement to replace Mayo Smith in midseason. He made Anderson his regular second baseman in 1959, and Sparky's contribution to last place was a .218 batting average.
In 1960, Sawyer quit after the first game of the season, and Gene Mauch began his managing career. But by then Anderson was back in the minors, at Toronto, where he played the next four years and never hit better than .257.
By now, however, he had his nickname: Sparky. At Fort Worth, he would argue vehemently with umpires. The radio announcer would describe such incidents as "sparks flying." Eventually, the announcer would say, "Here comes Sparky racing toward the umpire again."
People -- except real friends -- started to call him that all the time. As time went on, he accepted it and incorporated it into his public persona, but -- he wrote in 1989 -- he considered Sparky and George to be two different people.
After his first pro season, he got married and started his own family. That meant he needed off-season jobs. He worked in a furniture factory making dinette tables, then in a factory making television antennas, then packing doughnuts, and -- when he was already a minor league manager -- selling used cars. In that job, he was the opposite of Weaver: He talked customers out of buying the lemons.
By 1964, it was clear Anderson wouldn't make it as a player. He was thirty-four. The Toronto club was being run jointly by the expansion Washington Senators and the Braves, who were preparing to move from Milwaukee to Atlanta. They made him the manager.
The next year, affiliations were shuffled and Toronto wound up as a Red Sox farm, with Dick Williams given the chance to manage it. Anderson signed on with the Cardinal system at Rock Hill, North Carolina, in the low minors. Then it was St. Petersburg, Florida, then Modesto, California. The Cardinal system, of course, was as thoroughly Rickey-based as the Dodger system, and many individuals had gone back and forth between them over the years. Sparky's indoctrination in Rickeyism was approaching the Ph.D. stage.
Excerpted and reproduced from The Man In The Dugout, Expanded Edition: Baseball's Top Managers & How They Got That Way by Leonard Koppett, by permission of Temple University Press.
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