Fans, Reds, City leaders remember George "Sparky" Anderson

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Fans throughout the Tri-State are remembering George "Sparky" Anderson for the mark he left on the region.

Back in 2000, Anderson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. On Thursday night, the Reds Hall of Fame honored his legacy while mourning Cincinnati's loss.

"I can't say enough to what Sparky meant to this organization," said Phil Castellini, Cincinnati Reds Chief Operating Officer. "He will be truly missed. He was a special guy; really embodies what the Reds are all about."

Anderson died Thursday at his home in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 76 years old. Anderson died as a result of complications from dementia.

Anderson is survived by his wife, Carol; sons Lee and Albert; daughter Shirley Englebrecht; and nine grandchildren. At the request of Mr. Anderson, there will be no funeral nor memorial service.

Hours after news of his death, the Reds put up a memorial at Great American Ball Park. Flags were also lowered to half staff, and the scoreboard was lit up with Sparky's picture. Inside the Reds Hall of Fame Museum, a black ribbon now hangs on Sparky's plaque. Museum leaders told Fox 19 they plan to bring out more pictures and videos of Sparky to ensure fans can learn more about the man who not only changed baseball in Cincinnati, but fans, as well.

"Maybe it was his gray hair when he was in his 30s from coaching the best team in Reds history, but people just liked Sparky," said Rick Walls, executive director of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum. "And he was a first class person. Hall of Famer in every sense of the word."

Anderson got his nickname from the spark he showed playing in the minor leagues. Fans said Sparky was an inspiration back in the 70s and now.

"I grew up then," said Reds fan Billy Anderson. "I was playing baseball in 75, 76. Ten year old kid. Big Red Machine was everything."

Sparky's life was the topic of the night at Willie's Sports Café in Covington.

"Really, at first, I thought about my dad because he passed away a few years ago," said longtime Reds fan Chris Butt. "We were both big fans. Just a sad day because he was a great human being and a great manager."

"If you needed a pat on the butt, he'd give you a pat on the butt," said fan Billy Anderson. "If you needed to be quiet, he'd leave you alone. If you needed a kick in the butt, he'd do that, too."

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory also weighed in on the city's loss. He issued this statement on Thursday afternoon:

"It is a sad day for Cincinnati. Sparky Anderson was a true icon of major league baseball. And in Cincinnati, he will always be remembered as the leader of the big red machine. More importantly, he was a class act who never stopped being a friend and advocate of Cincinnati. We will miss him."

Team historian Greg Rhodes told Fox 19 that heaven's got a new manager and everyone up there is celebrating.

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