September 25, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Tom Gage

It's time to honor Sparky Anderson

Sparky Anderson and Alan Trammell will hear the cheers again next week, just like during visit to Detroit during the 2006 World Series. (Todd McInturf/The Detroit News)


Do the right thing, Tigers.

When you have the 1984 Tigers together Monday night at Comerica Park for the 25th anniversary of that marvelous World Series-winning team, retire Sparky Anderson's uniform number.

What on earth is preventing you? The Cincinnati Reds have retired it. The Ft. Worth Kats have retired it.

It's time.

If you don't do it now, you might never get him back to Comerica Park to do it another time. In fact, you won't.

This is going to be a sad-and-glad occasion at the same time. We'll see that some of the players from 1984 are getting gray. We'll see that some might even be getting old.

Sparky, however, has long since gotten old.

He doesn't travel a lot -- doesn't even play golf a lot anymore, from what we hear. Not as much as he used to, anyway.

And make no mistake, he's returning for this reunion for one reason and one reason only. It's not for Mike Ilitch. It's not for the organization. It's definitely not for the attention.

It's for his guys -- the players on the team that went wire-to-wire. From their 35-5 start to beating the San Diego Padres in five games in the World Series.

And they, in turn, are coming back to see him. Some of them, perhaps many, wouldn't have attended otherwise.

His record speaks for itself

But the best way you can honor that team -- and those who brought so much happiness to the city, as this year's team is attempting to do -- is for the players and coaches who will be on hand to have returned for a tangible reason.

A reason more substantial than a wave to a crowd that's waving back, more lasting than a pregame Q&A session with fans, and far more valuable than a reduced hotel rate.

Retire the No. 11, Tigers.

Do it.

Anderson managed the Tigers for 17 years, twice being voted manager of the year. With 1,331 victories, he's the winningest Tigers' manager ever.

But even when he passed Hughie Jennings to take over the No. 1 spot, he had a banner put up in the clubhouse at Tiger Stadium that read "thank you, players, I couldn't have done it without you."

That led to the classic Walt Terrell line of "he could have done it without me" -- but the message was clear all the same. Anderson wasn't taking credit for the milestone he'd just achieved, he was saying he'd done it because of his players.

It's that kind of memorable bond we'll witness again Monday night.

They're here to see Sparky

Not all the surviving Tigers from 1984 will be there. Lou Whitaker declared as early as spring training he wouldn't be attending. Chet Lemon's name isn't on the list of those who will attend, either.

Neither are Howard Johnson, Rusty Kuntz and Marty Castillo, plus several who played lesser roles.

But Kirk Gibson will be there. So will Alan Trammell, Darrell Evans, Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, Guillermo Hernandez, Dave Bergman, Dan Petry, Milt Wilcox, Larry Herndon and many others.

They'll be there to see the old man.

Hopefully they'll be there to see the Tigers officially retire his number, too.">

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