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Reds fans were taken aback when Sparky Anderson showed up in Cincinnati for his first day as a big league manager, an unknown taking over baseball's first professional team.
By the time he was done, this man with the shock of white hair and schoolboy nickname would produce a mighty list of achievements that featured three World Series titles — including crowns in each league — and a Hall of Fame entry on his resume.
Anderson, who directed the Big Red Machine to back-to-back championships and won another in Detroit, died Thursday from complications of dementia in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 76. A day earlier, his family said he'd been placed in hospice care.
"He was a good guy," former Tigers pitcher Jack Morris said, choking up over the news. "Baseball will have very few people like Sparky. He was a unique individual. He was a character with a great passion and love for the game."
He never tried to overshadow his teams, giving his stars great leeway while trying to stay in the background. At Anderson's request, there will be no funeral or memorial service.
Anderson was the first manager to win World Series titles in both leagues and the only manager to lead two franchises in career wins.
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