The selection of the best to ever wear #10 in Reds history is quite frankly, an easy one. George Lee “Sparky” Anderson, is as much a member of Reds history as anyone, and his fiery personality will forever live in hearts of fans who watched him lead the Big Red Machine to back-to-back World Series Championships.
His playing career was inauspicious enough. After being named the starting second basemen of the 1959 Philadelphia Phillies, he only batted .218 over the course of the season, and never got a taste of the show again. Having it be such a brief, momentary phase in his life, is more than likely what lit the fire under the belly of the man known as Sparky.
Anderson always joked that there really was not much managing to be done when it came to the Big Red Machine; that just staying out of their way was the best move that he could make. Sparky took over the club in 1970, and they promptly won 102 games, and the National League pennant. Unfortunately, the Baltimore Orioles had a loaded pitching staff waiting for the powerful Redlegs, and dispatched of them in just five games to take the 1970 crown.
Upon his arrival, many questioned the move of hiring a man who had seemingly come out of nowhere. After a stumble in 1971, the Reds were back in the World Series the following year. This time, it was the Oakland A’s who managed to conquer them, but momentum was building inside the walls of Riverfront Stadium. Over the next four seasons, the fewest amount of games the Reds would win would be 98.
They say that good things come to those who wait; and that certainly rang true for Sparky Anderson’s Big Red Machine. The club that was assembled in 1975 is on par with the ’27 Yankees as the greatest team that ever lived. Maybe part of the mystique is the magical seven-game series that took place to decide it all against the “cursed” Boston Red Sox, where Carlton Fisk provided one of the most memorable moments in baseball history as he waved the ball fair. Maybe the fire that Pete Rose played with and instilled in his teammates drew people to their daredevil ways of playing. Maybe it was Joe Morgan’s elbow flap as he stood in the box, waiting to demolish any pitch, any pitcher threw at him. But maybe, just maybe, it was the fiery, white-haired manager. Sparky Anderson was at the helm of the finest National League club that ever lived, and had it been anybody else, their perception may be drastically different. The good times kept rolling in 1976, when the Reds repeated as champions of the baseball world, and they remain the most recent National League club to do so.
They also say that a good thing can’t last forever; especially, in baseball. Baseball is a cyclical game like it or not, and no team can stay on top forever. The Big Red Machine inevitably aged, just like the kids on the playground of The Sandlot did, and everyone had to ride off into the sunset. Sparky, unfortunately, did not get to dictate his terms on when he would leave the empire he had built. Disagreements with new head man in charge, Dick Wagner, led to his forcing out.
Sparky could just not walk away from baseball, and understandably so, as he had invested his entire adult life into the game. He is not only a member of the Reds Hall of Fame, but the Detroit Tigers as well. From 1979-1995, Sparky was at the helm in the Motor City, and even helped the club win the 1984 World Series. All great generals know when it is time to pull back the reins and let a new breed take over, and that was Sparky Anderson after the ’95 campaign.
While there was no doubt over who would be #10 on our list, had we been limited to only players, Eddie Taubensee would have been the choice. A member of the Redlegs for seven years, he would have added yet another catcher to the ranks of Reds all-time greats. Bip Roberts also would have been inclined to draw some consideration.
George Anderson passed away on November, 4, 2010. It has been over three years that Sparky has not been with us, yet his legacy will always live on. His #10 hangs in his honor and to help us all remember just what kind of man Sparky Anderson was.