I have a lot of Ilitch love. I also have a lot of Sparky love. I was a little bummed when he wore the Reds Cap at his Hall of Fame induction. I think that decision puts a lot of pressure on the inductee. Nevertheless, I think Sparky deserves the same honor as the other Tiger Hall of Famers. I sent this to Mr. Ilitch today using the email address on their Ilitch Holdings site.
I'm not expecting a reply, but I'll repost if I get one. I sent this on 9/27/2009. Ten years to the day after the last game at Tiger Stadium.-------------------------------
Dear Mr. Ilitch,
I think the “Detroit Tigers Support Our Automakers” sign out in center field is one of the grandest gestures by an owner to his fans. Thank you for restoring pride to our city by rescuing two major sports franchises and restoring the most beautiful venue I have ever visited. When I am in the Fox Theatre, one of my favorite things to do after Sesame Street Live is to look up at the beautiful ceiling and count all the “lost” $10 Elmo balloons (the most I ever counted was 16). But I digress.
When I walk through that beautiful ballpark, I see the beautiful statues of Tiger heroes—Horton, Cobb, Greenburg, Gehringer, Newhouser, Kaline, and Harwell. I think we are missing one statue.
Sparky Anderson came to this franchise at a time when we both needed each other. He was reeling from being fired by the Reds. We were at a low point—Fidrych was basically done, and the Parrishes and Trammells and Whitakers were still in the pipeline. Sparky lead us to a World Championship in 1984, and ALCS in 1987.
Sparky could have left for greener pastures like Parrish, Gibson, and Morris. He could have left when it was clear we were headed for some bad years, but he stayed. From my perspective, the only things he was ever guilty of were 1) being Captain Hook and 2) Over-Platooning.
Even after he left, Sparky kept his CATCH charity operating, and he comes back every year to host the golf outing.
I have heard, in the past, that there may have been behind-the-scenes issues, possibly related to his refusal to coach the scab players in 1995. That was almost 15 years ago, and no one is getting any younger.
I attended a game in 2000, where you had a pre-game honoring of Sparky. I thought it was nice, but wondered, why no statue or retired number? Before it is too late, I would like to see a Sparky statue, and have a nice “Sparky Day” to dedicate it. I would like to see #11 retired, like all of the other Tiger Hall of Famers. Maybe you could tie his charity work in with all of it. I’m sure the Detroit fans would appreciate this. Such a gesture would underscore the already exemplary amount of class that anything with the Ilitch name already exudes.
October 23, 2009
On behalf of Mr. Michael Ilitch and the Detroit Tigers organization, we appreciate that you have taken the time to contact us to express your kind words, and interest in Tigers history. We wanted to acknowledge your suggestion regarding former Tigers' manager Sparky Anderson.
Sparky certainly had a remarkable 17-year career with the Tigers, which included a glorious 1984 World Series Championship.
Over the years the Tigers have celebrated the great players and personnel who have worn the old English "D" and Sparky has certainly been part of those celebrations.
Please know each year the ballclub identifies and discusses significant milestones, records, and achievements in order to honor Tigers player (s), and team personnel. We do not have plans to retire a uniform number at this time, but we will certainly take your endorsement into consideration for Sparky Anderson during our next organizational review.
Thank you for your comments and support of the Tigers.
Vice President, Communications
Thank you for the response. You've highlighted many of the reasons why Sparky stands apart from his managerial predecessors and successors. In addition, he established himself as a Hall-of-Famer, wearing the Olde English D. And let's not forget his charitable works.
If there are other, "behind the scenes" reasons, that's a different story. I just feel like nobody is getting any younger--not Sparky, or Mr. Ilitch. I would hate for something to happen to one of them, and have this issue not handled. When Sparky is no longer with us, there will be plenty of focus on the Detroit Tigers, and "how could they have not retired the number and hoisted the statue while he was alive."
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