Baseball Digest Birthdays: Sparky Anderson

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
On November 4th, 2010, George “Sparky” Anderson passed away at the age of 76. I wrote an article about Sparky the day after he passed away. To read that article, click here. Baseball Digest.com also featured a Card Tribute by Tim Danielson, click here to see the images of Sparky Anderson! As the Hall of Fame manager would have turned 77 today, we’re going to take a look at the very beginning of the career of George Anderson.

Born in 1934, Sparky Anderson was associated with baseball from his earliest days. He was a batboy with the University of Southern California’s Trojans and signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers after graduating from Susan Miller Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, California.

Sparky’s professional career began as a member of the Santa Barbara Dodgers of the lowest level of the minor leagues in 1953. He played alongside Red Witt, who went on to become a member of the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. He was just the first of many teammates that made their impact on major league baseball. In 1954, Roger Craig was the future big leaguer who played a few games with the Pueblo Dodgers alongside Anderson. A year after that, Sparky played alongside future Hall of Fame Manager Dick Williams, teammates with the 1955 Fort Worth Cats. It was in Fort Worth that George Anderson earned the nickname “Sparky”, thanks to a baseball announcer commenting on his style of play.

Over the next three seasons, Sparky played in the minor leagues with the Montreal Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League and the International League. He played alongside future greats like Monte Irvin and Tommy Lasorda. At the age of 24 in 1958, the Dodgers opted to trade the infielder to the Philadelphia Phillies. The trade proved to change Sparky Anderson’s life forever.

In a February 1971 article of Baseball Digest, Wells Twombley wrote about how Sparky Anderson was preparing for the 1971 season on the heels of a 1970 World Series loss. Click here to check it out!

He was promoted to the Phillies for the 1959 season and played sparingly in his only season in the big leagues before returning to the minors. Between 1960 and 1964, Sparky played exclusively with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. The team changed Major League affiliation three times while he played with the team, and it was the owner of the Maple Leafs that first suggested the idea of managing to Anderson.

Sparky retired as a player following the 1959 season and immediately began his career as a manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In each of his years as minor league manager between 1965 and 1968, he led his team to their league championships. As a result of his success Sparky was hired as the third base coach of the San Diego Padres for their debut season in 1969. In the off-season before 1970, he was initially hired to join the coaching staff of the California Angels. However, this was short lived when the Cincinnati Reds came calling and offered the white haired 36 year old an opportunity to manage the team that would eventually become the “Big Red Machine”.

Also Born On This Day:

In a unique twist of coincidences, the players sharing a birthday on February 22nd are forever linked to the Seattle Mariners organization.

J.J. Putz(b. 1972) is an eight year major league veteran, playing with four teams and most recently signed a two year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He may be best remembered for his time with the Seattle Mariners, where he ranks second in franchise history with 101 saves.

Kazuhiro Sasaki(b. 1968) played his entire 4 four major league career with the Seattle Mariners, and logged another twelve seasons with the Yokohama BayStars. In his brief tenure in Seattle, he recorded 129 saves and ranks first in franchise history. He elected to forgo his final year with the Seattle Mariners to return home to Japan, citing his desire to be with his family.

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