by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

ST. LOUIS — It is not my place to tell two successful World Series managers how to act. But I will do it anyhow. Every time I see writers walk away from Tom Kelly of the Minnesota Twins or Whitey Herzog of the St. Louis Cardinals, they look as if someone just stuffed a liverwurst sandwich under their nose.

Tom. Whitey. Guys. You can’t keep snarling and barking in front of 600 notepads. The other day, Kelly answered a reporter’s question by growling,
“I know my team better than you do.” And Herzog, long a media grouch, continued his great tradition of responding “Huh?” while giving a look that suggests you belong in a cell with a number across your chest.

I work in a city, Detroit, where the baseball manager is one delightful George (Sparky) Anderson. Say what you will. Reporters love Sparky. So, by now, I have heard the sentence, “Boy, I wish Sparky was here instead of these duds” only, say, oh, 2,900 times.

Alas, Sparky is not here. Sparky is presumably at home in California, teaching his grandchildren how to butcher the English language.

So here is the next best thing. Here, as my gift, based on years of observation, is a Sparkyish list of suggestions for Kelly and Herzog. Listen up, men. Your endorsements may be on the line: 1. GET A PIPE: Few things are more disgusting than baseball players with mouths full of tobacco. One is managers with mouths full of tobacco. Tom. Spit it out. Whitey. Drop those cigarets. Notice how Sparky Anderson smokes a pipe during his post-game remarks? Yes. A pipe. This makes him look professional, cultured and scholarly, even as he says: “There ain’t no way you don’t call no balk there (cough) nuh-uh.” 2. GET THE PROPER NICKNAME: “Whitey” is OK. Whitey is good. Whitey can sit this one out. But Tom. No. Tom is not a good manager’s name. Tom is not even Tom’s real name. His real name is Jay, which is no good either. Casey. Yogi. Sparky. You catch a pattern here? Mr. Kelly needs a new first name. I suggest: Curly. After his hair. Curly Kelly. It has a ring to it. 3. GET THE RIGHT HAIR: A long as we’re on the subject, you will notice that Sparky Anderson has a shock of white hair, neatly combed and groomed. Very identifiable. Very good. Whitey Herzog also has white hair. Unfortunately, he is caught somewhere between Pete Rose’s old haircut and Pete Rose’s new haircut. Which is it, Whitey? And Tom? You can, well, with those curls, sort of, uh, well . . . Never mind. It’s hopeless. 4. COMPLIMENT EVERYBODY: One thing that makes Sparky Anderson popular is his ability to praise people he hasn’t even met. Particularly fellow managers. For example, Tom, you could say of Whitey: “That man over there is the bona-fide genius of all time in the whole galaxy.” That would be a nice start. And Whitey, you of course would say: “Aw, hell, that man over there is the next bona-fide genius of the all time in the whole galaxy and the milky way.” See? 5. TALK ABOUT GRANDCHILDREN: During the American League playoffs, not a day went by when Sparky Anderson did not mention how, no matter what happened, he would soon be having a great time playing with his grandchildren. This helped solidify his warm, family-man image. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Tom Kelly, since you are only 37, the grandchildren thing could be tough, particularly on your son, who is eight. Maybe you could just rent some instead.) 6. TELL MORE ANECDOTES: Whenever Sparky Anderson encounters a line of questioning that is not to his liking, you can be sure he’ll pull out an anecdote. Something like: “Lemme tell you something. In 1959 — now, we’re talkin’ what, 28 years ago? I think 28 or 27, I ain’t sure, but anyhow, in 1959 . . . ” Within minutes, the interviewer has forgotten his question and is snoring. Anecdotes. Very important.

So you see, Tom? You see, Whitey? Six quick steps. Read them. Know them. Live them. Make nice. After all, we’re up to Game 6 now. One of you will be popping champagne pretty soon.

You don’t want to drink alone, do you?


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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