Sparky showing no sign of slowing

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

ST. MARYS -- The modern version of the Ol' Professor -- George (Sparky) Anderson -- thinks he knows exactly what needs to be done to fix hockey.

Emphasizing his thesis, the legendary 73-year-old baseball manager practically pulled Terry Crisp out of his cart at the St. Marys Golf and Country Club yesterday and made his point with the same vigour he would've displayed had his Detroit Tigers greats Alan Trammell or Lou Whitaker been called out on a close play.

"The problem with hockey is one team gets a penalty and they let them shoot the puck down the ice," Anderson said, his face centimetres away from Crisp's. "How is that penalizing a team? They shouldn't be allowed to ice it. I've always believed this and I've said that to Mr. Hockey -- Gordie Howe."

Crisp, the former Stanley Cup-winning coach in Calgary, could only agree with the spry senior being inducted along with Sherry Robertson and John Haar into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame today in St. Marys.

"Do you know how many times people have said the same thing you just did?" Crisp asked Anderson, shaking his head.

Hockey certainly can be a summer head-scratcher. Just ask NHLer Mark Bell, who was playing in the Hall tourney when he received a call informing him he had been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bell was dealt from the San Jose Sharks along with goalie Vesa Toskela for the choice to take Toronto's first-round pick -- 13th overall -- last night or next season's first-rounder, a second-round pick and a fourth-rounder in 2009.

You never stay put in one place long in sports. Anderson got to stay in two big league cities -- Cincinnati and Detroit -- long enough to become the first manager to win a World Series in both the National and American Leagues. Tony LaRussa matched it when the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Tigers in the last Fall Classic.

Anderson threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 of the World Series at Comerica Park last year, and if his predictive powers are as accurate as he claims, Motown should start getting pumped about a repeat visit.

"Before every season, my friends ask me what's going to happen in baseball and I go through picking the division winners," he said. "In '06, I said Detroit would make the playoffs, win the American League and win the World Series. Well, they did everything except win the Series and I think it was because they were too young. They weren't ready but they might as well book another trip to Detroit because they're going back again this year."

Not that Sparky will see any of it. These days, he figures you could add up all the baseball he watches "and it would maybe be 10 minutes."

"I never go to the ball park because if I'm there, then the manager feels like he has to say hi to me and I don't think that's right. That's not fair to Jimmy Leyland. In L.A., it's Mike Scioscia (with the Angels). My feeling is I had my time and once it's done . . . now, it's their time.

"I don't watch the game much because I start getting anxious about it and then I want to get right back into it. It's better for me just to stay away. I'm not saying that's the right way. That's just the way it is for me."

At last year's ball hall ceremonies, inductee Tommy Lasorda said he wanted to live to see 100. Though he has had some health scares, Anderson is fit and energetic as he ever was and humbly gregarious with anyone within earshot.

"I walk an hour and 25 minutes every morning, around four miles, and by every day, I mean 330 days a year because there's about 35 that I'm travelling and away from home (in Thousand Oaks, Calif.)," he said. "I eat a lot of fruit and not much meat. You won't see me eat two steaks a year."

That means he doesn't touch much duck, although he was interested to see former London Knight Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks win the Stanley Cup.

"I know someone who didn't like them much when they were called the Mighty Ducks," Anderson said with a grin. "But now, she likes them. They're just the Duckies."

Some would say the real lucky duck is the Canadian ball hall for having the engaging Sparky join its ranks.

---

HALL INDUCTION DAY

Inductees: Sparky Anderson, Sherry Robertson, John Haar

When: Today, 11 a.m. at the Hall museum grounds in St. Marys. Admission is free.

Ceremony host: Saturday Night Live's Darrell Hammond, who will also perform live on the Hall stage at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $25 at the door.


Videos

Photos