Friday, March 31, 2006

Moss Was Trimmed In Order To Hire Sparky

Les Moss as a White Sox player, circa the mid-1950's

If there is more of a human postscript in Tigers history than Les Moss, I'm dying to know who it is.

Moss was the man who had the audacity to not be Sparky Anderson, and thus was dispatched as Tigers manager in June 1979.

Moss, who managed the White Sox for 36 games in an interim capacity in 1968 (he went 12-24), was a manager in the Tigers' minor league system who was roundly credited with having a lot to do with the development of players such as Lance Parrish, Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Lou Whitaker, and Alan Trammell. They are names that are now cherished in Detroit. And Les Moss was the man, the Tigers said, that helped to mold them, so why not let him manage them at the major league level, too?

So after Ralph Houk "retired" following the 1978 season (he returned a few years later with the Red Sox), Moss was promoted after nary a search by General Manager Jim Campbell.

Trouble was -- for Moss -- Sparky Anderson had been let go by the Reds after the '78 campaign, and was sitting at home in Thousand Oaks, California, unemployed and doing some TV work for the Angels.

It was during a Tigers west coast swing in June that Campbell learned, thru TV announcer George Kell, that Sparky had been approached by the Cubs and was seriously considering managing the North Siders in Chicago in 1980.

Shortly after being made aware of this by Kell, Campbell began making phone calls to Sparky. At first, Anderson rebuffed Campbell, telling him that for the money he was seeking, the Tigers would want no part of him. But Campbell persisted, and eventually got Sparky to at least look at the Tigers' media guide, to scan the team's roster. Then, he got Sparky to say he would come, but not until 1980.

"But I couldn't look Les Moss in the eye for four more months, knowing I'd be firing him at the end of the season, no matter what he did," Campbell was quoted as saying in Anderson's book, They Call Me Sparky.

So Campbell all but begged Anderson to join the Tigers immediately.

Sparky, impressed with Campbell's dogged pursuit, agreed.

So Les Moss, despite righting the Tigers' ship after a rough start, was fired and replaced by the legendary Sparky Anderson. The Tigers' record was 27-26, making Moss 39-50 in his managing career. He never managed again, though he did resurface as an Astros coach several years later.

The funny thing was, the Tigers went 2-9 in their first 11 games under Sparky's guidance, undoing Moss' winning ways -- temporarily.

Campbell once said that firing Moss was one of the most difficult things he ever had to do in baseball. But, he reasoned, how often do you get a chance to hire a man with Sparky Anderson's resume?

Maybe even Les Moss would agree. He didn't say much when he was hired by the Tigers, didn't say much while he was here, and said even less after he left town.

But he will forever be a delicious trivia question, and a marvelous little postscript in Tigers history.


Blogger Ozz said...

So what happened to Les Moss after he was let go? It seems like maybe he could've been offered another job within the organization.

Is he still alive?

1:47 AM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Well, like I said, he re-emerged with the Astros as a coach in the 1980's, and he's 80 years old and retired -- somewhere.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Admin said...

nice article sir
thanks for information ..

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