I didn’t know a lot about Dan Ewald before reading this book, except that he was one of the folks Ernie Harwell always credited at the end of a broadcast. It turns out Dan was Sparky Anderson’s gatekeeper, and this book is a memoir of their relationship. It’s cast as a long conversation occurring a few days before Anderson’s death. There are a bunch of stories about, and often told by, Sparky. The last fifty or so pages are a real tear-jerker. Ewald likely intends this as an inspirational book, and it can certainly be read that way.
Besides the Life Lessons, the book contains a quite a bit of biographical material, and a surprising amount of information and commentary about Sparky’s managerial methods. Sparky was more a motivator and molder than a tactician, as anyone who followed his teams knows. Ewald witnessed Anderson’s methods during his Tiger years, and heard yarns about his work with the Cincinnati team’s already-established egos. Also potentially valuable is the author’s discussion about the differences and commonalities between Anderson’s two personas–Sparky, the always-on-stage manager, and the homebody known to his friends as George. I’d long been aware of the Sparky/George division, but hadn’t previously seen it directly considered.
This book’s been the stand-in-line book on my smartphone for the past few months. It’s been a worthwhile companion. Recommended, particularly to Tigers and Reds fans, and to anyone who wants some clue about how baseball’s managers do their work.
This review was originally published on LibraryThing.