You simply cannot talk about CATCH without recognizing the “Main Spark” who started it all more than 25 years ago!
Sparky Anderson, manager of the Detroit Tigers, always made it a point to visit children in the hospital. He did it during his managerial career with the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s and continued to do so in the 80s and 90s with the Tigers.
When he visited the hospitalized grandchild of one of his friends in 1987, he decided to do even more. His original idea was a single event with many of his players signing autographs to help sick children. The more he talked about it – and the more people he talked about it to – the more he was convinced that this single event should be something permanent.
And so it is.
That simple idea has grown into a charity that provides ongoing help to Children’s Hospital and Henry Ford Hospital patients and their families, and is built to help future generations of sick and needy children.
“Long after I am gone, this thing is still going to be here to help the children,” Sparky was fond of saying. “This thing for the kids is gonna outlast all of us!”
Even though he had his hands full managing a major league baseball team and dealing with all of the responsibilities that come with his celebrity, Sparky ALWAYS made CATCH and its activities a priority.
He still visited children in the hospital, and, as was the norm with him, he did it unceremoniously and without cameras nor photographers. He attended and spoke (very passionately) about his vision for CATCH and his appreciation of everyone who was working alongside of him.
And he treated EVERYONE the same. Whomever he spoke with, that person was made to feel like the most important person in the room. Because to him, they were.
When Sparky left the Tigers after the 1995 season, it marked the end of a Hall of Fame Baseball career that included managing three World Championships, five pennants, seven divisional titles and 2,194 victories. And while retired to his home in California, he remained fully engaged and active with CATCH.
This charity and this town, and its wonderful people, were so special to Sparky that he came back every year for the CATCH Golf events in July, and then made his way to Cooperstown for the annual Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend.
In the last few years of his life, he told his wife Carol and close friend Dan Ewald: “If I can only make two trips a year, those are the two I’m gonna make. Please don’t take that from me.”
–Jim Hughes, CATCH Executive Director
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