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Sparky Anderson Dies, But Leaves Permanent Mark On Countless

Thursday morning's news of Sparky Anderson's death came as a surprise, and as a second blow to those left still reeling from Wednesday's news that he'd been placed under hospice care for dementia. But this is a time not to feel bad about about Sparky's passing, but to celebrate all that he was able to accomplish both in and outside of the game of baseball.

Within, he was a Hall of Fame manager who won three World Series and left a very strong, favorable impression on players, coaches, and media types. He also left an impression on the game itself, as he's considered by many to be the first manager to use his bullpen like managers do today. Sparky explained why in his own words in a book foreword:

Left-handed pitcher vs. left-handed hitter. The left-hander’s breaking ball runs away from the left-handed hitter. Makes it harder to hit. Righty-righty, same thing.
Captain Hook? Yeah, I used what I had. We weren’t blessed with the Dodgers’ starting pitching, but we had a really deep bullpen. People say I was ahead there, too, five years ahead of the league, you know, having more saves than complete games, but I didn’t do it because it was in some book. I did it because we didn’t have but a couple of guys who could go much past six innings.

But Sparky wasn't only a significant figure within the game. He also had his own life outside of it, and Jo-Ann Barnas writes about how he touched so many lives of other people:

We hoofed it for 1 1/2 hours. But truth be told, we could have covered the distance in half the time had we not stopped to strike up conversations along the way with Bob, Tiamato and Tony. They were folks who worked for the university whom Anderson had come to know during his walks.

Bob was the “equipment guy,” Anderson said. And Tiamato, well, he had to turn off his leaf blower to chat. Tony was a security guard who rolled down his window as Sparky walked up.

It’s a popular thing to say, how everybody knew Sparky. But Sparky knew them. There’s a difference.

Despite the news, this doesn't have to be a sad day. Sparky lived a long life exactly how he wanted to live it.