Sparky's No. 11 retired in emotional ceremony
Several of Anderson's former players, including Lou Whitaker, Dan Petry and Tom Brookens were on hand at the ceremony. (AP)
By Jason Beck / MLB.com | 06/26/11 2:50 PM ET
DETROIT -- The Tigers officially retired Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson's No. 11 on Sunday in an emotional pregame ceremony, capped with the unveiling of his name and number along the brick wall beyond right field at Comerica Park.
Several of Anderson's former players, including Lou Whitaker, Dan Petry, Tom Brookens, Larry Herndon, Darrell Evans and Milt Wilcox joined Anderson's three children, his nephew and two grandchildren for the ceremony. Former Tigers greats Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson, two of the cornerstones of Anderson's 1984 world championship team, watched intently from the D-backs' dugout as they prepared for the game.
It was a celebration not only of Anderson's career, but of his contributions off the field.
"I think he'd be very, very happy and proud that we came together," said his daughter, Shirlee Engelbrecht.
Anderson passed away last November. While everyone agreed that they wished they could have seen this while he was still alive, they were glad to see him recognized.
On the field, the resume stands on its own. His 26 seasons managing in the Majors included World Series titles in Cincinnati and Detroit. He won 1,331 games over 17 seasons leading the Tigers, and he brought along a generation of great players in Gibson, Trammell, Brookens, Petry, Whitaker, Jack Morris, Lance Parrish and others.
His legacy on the field continues with Gibson and Trammell leading Arizona. Off the field, his CATCH charity continues to raise money to help improve the quality of life for children being treated at the Children's Hospital of Michigan and the Henry Ford Hospital.
"I worked with Sparky for 32 years," Dan Ewald, Anderson's best friend and public relations representative, said. "That's why I can confidently tell you that No. 11 belonged as much to all of you people as it does to him. Sparky loved Detroit. He loved the city's spirit. He said Detroiters never surrender."
Petry, who had four straight seasons with at least 15 wins under Anderson from 1982-85, spoke during the presentation along with Ewald, who worked as the Tigers media relations director during Anderson's early years as manager.
"I never wanted to pitch poorly," Petry said, "because letting down Sparky was like letting down your dad."
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, who represented the team in the ceremonies, presented Anderson's family with a framed jersey of Anderson's No. 11, as well as a plaque. At the end, his grandchildren unveiled Anderson's name and number along the wall, in between Ernie Harwell's name and Jackie Robinson's number 42.
Anderson joins fellow Hall of Famers Al Kaline, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer and Hal Newhouser, as well as Tigers great Willie Horton, as Tigers who have had their number retired. Ty Cobb is also honored, though he doesn't have a number to retire from his era. Kaline and Horton were both on the field for the ceremonies.
It was a touching time for Anderson's family, who remembered some of the lessons he taught them and his love for this city.
"It doesn't cost a dime to be nice to people," Anderson's nephew, Dan Polizzotto, recalled hearing from his uncle. "If you do that, then everything will be good."Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.