Friday, November 5, 2010


About ten years ago I had the privilege to play a round of golf with Sparky Anderson, a hall of fame baseball manager who passed away yesterday at the age of 76. Some of you may know I'm a baseball fanatic. I played baseball in college at Biola University. It was as an alumni when I went to play in a fundraiser tournament that I got paired up with this legend. As a fan, I knew him as a manager who had won the World Series in both the American league with the Tigers, and the National league with the Reds. But I didn't know what to expect that day.

Sparky was a small man as you can probably tell by the picture. But he was a man with a huge heart. He talked and shared with us as though we had been buddies for years. At one point during the round I hit a tee shot that sliced way right into a bunch of houses. I eventually learned I had broken a window of one of those houses, as the homeowner met me half way down the fairway. Sparky had a good laugh about that.

At one point I asked him about the greatest player he'd ever had the privilege to see play. Without hesitation he said "Roberto Clemente." Clemente was a dynamic player for the Pirates in the 60s whose life was cut short when his plane crashed on a disaster relief effort. But to hear Sparky talk about him and describe his abilities was almost as real as seeing him myself. He spoke with passion as a fan, and yet someone with the credentials to speak in such a way that you believed every word he was saying was true.

I've always tried to be a learner, to observe people and figure out what makes them a leader. In the baseball world, Sparky was one of the most successful and admired leaders in the history of the game. As a player - he was terrible. He couldn't hit to save his life. And yet as a manager he was one of the most successful men of all time. And here's the deal - he accomplished that by smiling, by being genuinely joyful, believing in his players, and when necessary taking a stand for them. He was a leader of men. A passionate, fiery, joyful, pleasant, small in stature, yet giant of a man.

Baseball lost a good one this week. I only spent about four hours of my life with the man, and yet, I'll miss him.


Great story. I remember the day that my Dad, my brother, and I were approached by Xavier McDaniel to play basketball with him. It was for an impromptu photo shoot for a tux shop. It was a day I could never forget, especially because we were able to get pictures of it. Sparky sounded like a good guy.

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