Detroit-area Catholic clergy are among the scores of people offering fond and prayerful remembrances of Sparky Anderson, who managed the Detroit Tigers for 16 years, leading them a World Series Championship in 1984. Anderson died Thursday, November 4, in Thousand Oaks, California.
Shortly after he arrived in Detroit in 1990, Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop emeritus, was invited by the baseball team to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Tiger Stadium. He remembers that first meeting and sharing a good laugh with Sparky Anderson. "He was a remarkable person," the cardinal says, "...a great human being and a man of faith. The baseball world and our community have lost a great ambassador."
The story is told that Sparky Anderson became interested in Catholicism when playing on a farm team for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He started going to Sunday Mass in Texas with some of his teammates. Later, when Sparky played for the Philadelphia Phillies, he befriended a priest in Pennsylvania who worked with him to become a baptized Catholic.
Fr. Don Worthy, a retired priest of the Detroit archdiocese, came to know Sparky as his pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Detroit. "With Sparky," Fr. Worthy says, "what you saw is what you got." No other Detroit sports figure, according to Fr. Worthy, has enriched our community as much as Sparky Anderson."He led by the power of good example."
Both Cardinal Maida and Fr. Worthy cite Sparky’s personal investment in helping children in southeast Michigan, particularly through his pediatric charity know as CATCH (Caring Athletes Team for Children’s and Henry Ford Hospital). "His world was more than baseball,” Cardinal Maida recalls. “I pray that he is now at peace with the Lord."