A tip of the cap to Sparky Anderson.
He did what Tony La Russa could not: choose a team logo to display on the cap for his plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
But La Russa differed from Anderson on the controversial cap choice.
La Russa, elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in December 2013, said he chose not to have a team logo on the cap for his plaque because he didn’t want to disrespect any of the three teams _ White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals _ he managed.
Because he won two of his three World Series titles with the Cardinals, became the all-time leader in wins (1,408) among Cardinals managers and spent 16 of his 33 years as a manager with St. Louis, La Russa disappointed many Cardinals loyalists, including club owner Bill DeWitt Jr., with his decision.
Contrast La Russa’s choice with that of Anderson’s:
Anderson, elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, chose to have a Reds logo on the cap for his plaque _ even though he was fired in Cincinnati and spent nearly twice as many years managing the Tigers as he did the Reds.
The reason for Anderson’s decision had roots from his three years as a minor-league manager in the Cardinals’ system.
Anderson said he chose the Reds cap for his plaque as a tribute to Bob Howsam.
As Reds general manager, Howsam hired Anderson to manage Cincinnati, launching him onto his Hall of Fame career.
As Cardinals general manager, Howsam saved Anderson’s career by hiring him to manage in the St. Louis system.
Anderson was unemployed after being fired as manager of Class AAA Toronto in 1964. In March 1965, Fred Koenig resigned as manager of the Cardinals’ Class A Rock Hill team. With the start of the season near, Howsam was scrambling to find a replacement.
Howsam took a chance on Anderson.
Anderson managed Rock Hill to a 59-63 record.
In 1966, the Cardinals named Anderson manager of Class A St. Petersburg. He led St. Petersburg to a 91-45 record and strengthened his reputation within the Cardinals organization as a first-rate instructor.
Howsam left St. Louis to become general manager of the Reds in January 1967. The Cardinals named Anderson manager of Class A Modesto. He led Modesto to a 79-61 mark and the league championship.
In the fall of 1967, Howsam wooed Anderson into the Reds organization as a minor-league manager at Class AA Asheville. Two years later, Oct. 9, 1969, Howsam introduced Anderson as manager of the Reds.
“He hired a 35-year-old nobody knew and he had the courage and fortitude to do that,” Anderson told the Associated Press in February 2000, explaining why Howsam inspired him to select a Reds cap for the plaque. “Had he not done that, I doubt very much, in all honesty, that I would have managed in the major leagues. And I owe that to him.”
Anderson won two World Series titles and four pennants with the Reds and posted an 863-586 record. Howsam retired after the 1977 season and was replaced by Dick Wagner, who, after one year on the job, fired Anderson in 1978.
The next year, the Tigers hired Anderson. He led them to the 1984 World Series title and earned 1,331 wins with Detroit from 1979-95.
Sparky: Tony isn’t a bozo
When La Russa became a big-league manager in 1979, with the White Sox, he sought advice from many, including Anderson.
“I never saw anyone catch on as fast as he did,” Anderson said of La Russa in the book “Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission” (2009, Triumph). “When you talk to him, you realize he is very intelligent. You’re not talking to a bozo. He learned so fast, you were never going to trick him. He knew what was going on. I always played him straight up, but I never let him play any tricks on me either.”
Said Roland Hemond, general manager of the 1979 White Sox: “Tony was smart enough to pick up the wisdom those guys were willing to pass along. I don’t think Sparky would have spent so much time with him if he thought he was talking to a guy who would not be around very long.”
After the 1995 season, when La Russa was trying to decide whether to leave the Athletics for the Cardinals, Anderson was an influencer in his decision.
“Going to the National League wasn’t something I considered initially,” La Russa wrote in his book “One Last Strike” (Morrow, 2012). “Several people, including Sparky Anderson, told me that I’d love it, and when the name St. Louis came up, I started to think seriously about it.”
His success with St. Louis sealed La Russa’s election to the Hall of Fame _ even if his cap won’t reflect that.