Signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953, Sparky Anderson advanced to the Triple-A Montreal Royals in 1956, where he hit .298 and rapped out 135 hits. After toiling with the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels for one season, the fiery second baseman returned to Montreal to sock 35 doubles and lead the Royals to a league title in 1958. His sole big league season came with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959, before he came back to Canada to man second base for the Toronto Maple Leafs for four seasons.

In all, the heady infielder played six of 10 minor league seasons north of the border. During that time, he was voted the International League’s Smartest Player five times. In 1964, Anderson accepted his first managerial post with the Toronto Maple Leafs, an opportunity afforded to him by fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jack Kent Cooke. After compiling an 80-72 record for the Leafs, he made his way up the managerial ladder to become one of the most successful skippers in big league history.

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