COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – On the most uncommon day of the year, Sparky Anderson, Bid McPhee and Norman “Turkey” Stearnes earned the most uncommon honor: Election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Twelve years ago this week – on the Leap Day that was Feb. 29, 2000 – the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee elected Anderson, McPhee and Stearnes. They joined Baseball Writers’ Association of America electees Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez in the Class of 2000.
“I never wore a World Series ring,” said Anderson, who managed the Cincinnati Reds to two World Series championships and the Detroit Tigers to another. “But I will wear this (his Hall of Fame) ring until I die.”
George Lee Anderson played one full big league season as the Phillies everyday second baseman in 1959. But after hitting just .218, Anderson was returned to the minor leagues. At the age of 30, however, Anderson took over as manager Toronto of the International League, and by 1969 he was the San Diego Padres’ third base coach.
The next year, Anderson was named manager of the Reds. He led Cincinnati to the National League pennant that season, and followed that up with another NL pennant in 1972 and World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. After joining the Detroit Tigers in 1979, Anderson led his new team to a World Series championship in 1984.
When he retired following the 1995 season, Anderson had amassed 2,194 wins – still good for sixth on the all-time list.
McPhee played the majority of his 18-year big league career as a bare-handed second baseman – the last major league second sacker to play without a glove. Playing his entire career in Cincinnati, McPhee batted better than .300 three times and scored 100-or-more runs in a season 10 times.
Stearnes played in the Negro leagues from 1923-41, earning a reputation as one of the game’s most prolific home run hitters. A graceful center fielder, Stearnes is credited with a .344 average and 176 home runs in 883 Negro leagues games.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum