Remembering Sparky Anderson's 'WKRP' episode

Thu, Nov 4

The world of sport lost one of its greats when Sparky Anderson passed away Thursday morning. So did the world of acting.

When Sparky retired, he had won more games as a manager than all but John McGraw and Connie Mack. He won the World Series in the National League and in the American League. He won seven division titles, five pennants and three World Series. He won election to the Hall of Fame. And he should have won an Emmy for his December 1979 performance on "WKRP in Cincinnati." (You can watch it here.)

In the episode, WKRP station manager Mr. Carlson hires Sparky -- fired by the Reds the previous season -- to host a sports call-in show, "The Bullpen," hoping the show will catch on and become nationally syndicated. "Welcome to The Bullpen with Sparky Anderson," Sparky says on the first show, "brought to you by Sunluxe Petroleum: makers of gas, heating oil and a crude but hearty wine." He has an indoor soccer player as a guest on that first show but virtually no one calls in, leaving Sparky to make awkward conversation, including a bit about the nice new phone in the Anderson house. In the end, the station is forced to cancel the show, with Sparky griping, "Every time I come to this town, I get fired." It wasn't James Gandolfini in "The Sopranos," but it was pretty damn good for an athlete. And certainly better than this effort from a couple of Sparky's players.

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