Sparky's memory honored at Dedeaux dinner
Foundation continues skipper's spirit by helping youth programs
LOS ANGELES -- It was a relationship that went back nearly 60 years, when a young teenager named George Anderson was asked by the coach of the USC baseball team, Rod Dedeaux, if he wanted to be the team's bat boy.
George would later sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization as an infielder and even though he never would distinguish himself as a player, the young man everyone called Sparky would go on to a Hall of Fame career as a Major League manager, winning three World Series, two with the Reds in 1975-76 and one with the Tigers in 1984, becoming the first of two managers (the other being Tony La Russa) to win World Series with teams from both the American and National leagues.
On Wednesday night, Anderson, who died November at age 76, was honored with the second annual Dedeaux Award, presented by the Dedeaux Foundation, which was formed to continue the spirit of the legendary college baseball coach, who died in 2006, by supporting youth baseball and softball programs in underserved areas.
Many baseball luminaries who were friends with both Anderson and Dedeaux, including Joe Morgan, Vin Scully, Tom Seaver, George Foster, Steve Garvey, Ron Fairly and Doug Harvey, were in attendance to honor both legends.
"Sparky was like family to me. He was never my manager," said Morgan, who won NL Most Valuable Player awards in 1975-76 under Anderson. "We were more like family. It's an honor for me to represent him here tonight. Rod Dedeaux was a great college coach as well and Sparky was a great Major League coach and they'd known each other so long, I'm sure Sparky would have been thrilled to death. "
Tom Seaver, like Morgan a Hall of Famer, played for both Anderson and Dedeaux. He spent two seasons under Anderson with the Reds and one season under Dedeaux at Southern California.
"He was a pistol," Seaver said of Anderson. "He was one of those old-time managers, he like walked right out of history and he had one of the best teams in the history of baseball. They kind of threw the mold away when they made Sparky."
"I feel this is a great honor for him," said Foster, who provided a good deal of power for the Big Red Machine. "He has not only been a great coach, but a great human being. I was fortunate to know him not only as a manager, but also as a friend, so it's a great tribute to him and his family, so it is long overdue."
During the ceremony, former players and colleagues took the stage to talk about Anderson, including Hall of Fame umpire Harvey, who regaled the audience with one of the numerous times he kicked the cantankerous manager out of a game.
"Sparky and I always had an understanding," Harvey said. "He told my wife one time, 'I hate umpiring with your husband. She said 'Why is that?' 'Well,' he said, 'I argue and I argue and I argue and he throws me out and I'm mad and he tells me I better get away, so I get away and I go inside and watch the replay and every time the son of a gun is right.'"
Proceeds from the dinner will benefit the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy, part of Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Initiative.
"Sparky was larger than life," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball development. "I think Sparky's here right now; he's watching everybody. I think he's happy that the academy is the recipient of the proceeds from this benefit tonight. He's not only being honored, but he's walking around among us tonight, in the hearts of a lot of people, as is Rod Dedeaux."
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.