Today George Lee Anderson passed away due to complications with dementia. Better known as "Sparky," he led the '70s Big Red Machine to many pennants and World Series victories and is a legend for those of us who grew up in Cincinnati.
By the time I was born Sparky was on his way out of Cincinnati, headed to Detroit where he would manage the Tigers for 17 years. I feel fortunate that I was able to see him at Tiger Stadium, see him go to the mound to yank a pitcher, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jacket. I feel even more fortunate that I was able to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, in the summer of 2000.
Why do I have such an undying love for a man that I've never met? It's not that I hold all the members of the Big Red Machine with the same affection. I just think that he's one of those people whose genuine goodness shines through, someone who can be famous without being pretentious. He smiled because he was happy to being paid to be in the game of baseball as much as he was happy to be walking down the street.
But when it comes down to it, Sparky was one of those people who regardless of the fact that he was a celebrity, he was a good person and he was down to earth. Today I read that a motto he followed was one his dad taught him: It doesn't cost anything to be nice to people. What a great lesson to learn. Chances are my kids aren't going to grow up to famous people, but they sure can learn how to be nice.