SI Vault
Edited by William Leggett
December 11, 1978
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December 11, 1978


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Sparky Anderson was fired last week as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, a move that stunned not only Sparky but also a lot of baseball fans and brought into somewhat sharper focus the blurry picture of 50-year-old Dick Wagner, the Reds' executive vice-president and general manager, the man who pulled the trigger on Sparky. In nine seasons as Red manager, Anderson had averaged 96 victories a year and an overall .596 winning percentage, topped only in baseball's "modern" times by Joe McCarthy with the Yankees (.614) and Frank (The Peerless Leader) Selee, who managed the Chicago Cubs into the 1900s. Selee beat out Anderson for second place by .002.

Sparky's team now becomes new Manager John McNamara's band, but McNamara will probably begin spring training without free agent Pete Rose, whom Wagner could not persuade to remain in Cincinnati. In 1979 the Reds may also lose slugger George Foster and two-time MVP Joe Morgan to free agency.

In each of the last two years the Big Red Machine lost the Western Division to the Los Angeles Dodgers when the Cincy organization was unable to provide the team with adequate pitching. In fact, Red pitchers yielded nearly a run more per game than Dodger pitchers. Wagner has been promotion director for the Ice Capades, a radio-station general manager in Salina, Kans., and manager of the Lincoln Pershing Auditorium in Nebraska; he also put in 11 years in minor league baseball and has been with Cincinnati for the past 11 seasons, mostly as the hatchet man for club President Bob Howsam.

Wagner's detractors (he has already been hanged in effigy in Cincy by a 54-year-old widow) maintain that he fired Anderson because Sparky did not speak out strongly against Rose's defection, and that coaches Ted Kluzewski, Alex Grammas, Larry Shepard and George Scherger were scrapped because they accepted Jeeps from Rose as "expressions of gratitude."

In McNamara, Wagner said, "We now have the man to take us in a new direction." McNamara has hardly been known as a dynamic leader, however, and a lot of folks believe that without Rose, and dependent on aging stars, Cincinnati's new direction will be downward, just like its old one. Probably the most pertinent remark made thus far about Anderson's dismissal came from Rose when he was recalling a recent conversation with Atlanta owner Ted Turner, who tried to get Pete to join the Braves.

"Pete," Turner said, "I just want you to play for the Braves for a couple of years, until they fire Dick Wagner. Then you can go home to Cincinnati where you belong."


Now for the out-of-town college football score of last week: Brigham Young 28, Nevada-Las Vegas 24 at Yokohama. This week's out-of-towner will come from Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo, where Temple, with a record of 6-3-1, plays Boston College (0-10). Brigham Young, bound for the Dec. 22 Holiday Bowl in San Diego, where it meets Navy, defeated Nevada-Las Vegas at Yokohama Stadium before 25,500, on a field of AstroTurf. Temple's and BC's meeting in Korakuen, where the capacity is 55,000, is called the Mirage Bowl.

Football in Japan, however, is no longer a mirage. It is becoming a very big business. Odd as it might have seemed a decade ago, America's most publicized team, Notre Dame, will play in the Mirage Bowl on NOV. 24, 1979. Its opponent will be the University of Miami; the Hurricanes switched the site from the Orange Bowl (capacity 80,045) in order to make the trip.

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