Sparky Anderson, the first manager to win World Championships in both leagues, passed away today at the age of 76. Sparky won World Series titles with the Reds in 1975 and 1976, and with the Tigers in 1984. His 2,194 career wins currently places him at sixth on the all-time list of wins by a manager, and his efforts were rewarded with induction into Cooperstown in 2000.
George "Sparky" Anderson began his professional playing career with six seasons in the Dodgers' minor league system from 1953 through 1958. Following a tumultuous 1958 season, the Phillies swapped their aging second baseman Solly Hemus to the Cardinals for third baseman Gene Freese. In need of a second baseman for the 1959 campaign, the Phillies traded outfielder Rip Repulski and two prospects to the Dodgers for Anderson. Now looking at Sparky's minor league stats with the Dodgers, I'm not exactly sure what convinced the Phillies front office to trade away three players to acquire his services. Anderson had been blocked at the Dodgers' Major League level by Junior Gilliam and Charlie Neal, so it seems as the Phils would have been able to pry him away from the Dodgers for less than three players. In any event, Repulski went on to win a World Series with the Dodgers in 1959, and George Anderson was handed the Phillies' second baseman's job for the season.
It didn't go so well. In his only year in the Majors as a player, Anderson hit just .218 with no home runs and 34 RBIs. His defense at second was decent, as he finished second in the league with a .984 fielding percentage, but it wasn't enough to keep him around for a second season. He was let go by the Phils after the season ended. He played a few more years in the minor league systems of the Indians, Braves and Senators before ending his playing career and beginning his managerial career. The rest, as they say, is history. Sparky's path crossed with the Phillies again in the 1976 NLCS, as his Big Red Machine swept the Phils right on out of the play-offs.
Sparky's brief career with the Phillies produced three baseball cards. He was featured in the 1959 and 1960 Topps sets, as well as the 1960 Leaf set - all of which I have yet to add to my collection. The best I could do for this post was to feature Sparky's 1978 Topps card, which includes a photo from his brief tenure with the Phillies.