Tigers’ Treatment of Sparky Descends from Sour Grapes to Bush League

I suppose it was inevitable that the Tigers would retire Sparky Anderson’s number 11. The only question, at least in my mind, was whether it would happen before or after owner Mike Ilitch moved on to the next life.

Two months after Sparky’s death, todaythe Tigers announced they’ll retire his number 11 and wear a patch with the number all season.

I understand his passing happened after the season and there wasn’t much they could do, but couldn’t the Tigers have chosen another time — any other time — to honor (or at least announce their intention to honor) their winningest manager?

Here are just a few opportunities they wasted:

  • 1994: The 10th anniversary of the 1984 World Series championship
  • 2000: His induction in to the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • 2004: The 20th anniversary of the ’84 championship
  • 2005: Comerica Park All-Star Game festivities
  • 2006: Any time during the postseason
  • 2009: The 25th reunion event for the ’84 club, when it was clear that Sparky’s health was declining.

Yes, the fact the Tigers are honoring Sparky is a good thing — and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Dave Dombrowski that finally convinced Ilitch that the Great Sparky Schism needed to end.

But still, two months after his death? 18 months after the last, best opportunity?


“Better late than never” just doesn’t work for me in this instance.

Remembering the Les Moss Era

When you search for “raw deal” on Google, the first entry is for the 1986 film by the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathryn Harrold and Darren McGavin.

Twenty-nine years ago Les Moss got a raw deal in his second big-league managing job.Moss_Les

Yes, second. He managed the 1968 White Sox for just 36 games, going 12-24.

In 1979, John Lester Moss took over for the retired Ralph Houk as Tigers manager. Moss had been in the Tigers farm system managing the Triple-A Evansville (Ind.) Triplets in the American Association and it was, I guess, his turn.

Moss managed the Tigers for just 53 games in ’79. Detroit sat at a 27-26, on the morning of June 14. Before Moss could order lunch, he was out of a job and Sparky Anderson was the Tigers’ new manager. (Officially, first base coach Dick Tracewski was the interim manager. Trixie led the Tigers to a 2-0 record before Sparky took over.)

So the Moss Era was over before it even began. The managing era, that is.

Did you know that Les Moss had a 13-year career as a catcher in the majors? He debuted in 1946 as a 21-year-old with the St. Louis Browns. He played in just a dozen games that year but finished a .371 average.

A review of his year-by-year stats show one thing: he was ridiculously inconsistent. For example:

  • 1947: 96 games, .157 avg.
  • 1948: 107/.257
  • 1949: 97/.291
  • 1950: 84/.266
  • 1951: 87/.193

…and so on. What else?

  • He never hit more than 14 homers in a season
  • His career average was .247; career OBP: .333

Though he didn’t hang around Detroit for very long, Les Moss is another player in the Tigers’ rich history.

Today the Tulsa native turns 83.

**Update: Moss passed away Aug. 29, 2012.