San Diego — World Series Managers Dick Williams of the San Diego Padres and Sparky Anderson of the Detroit Tigers are like a couple of old gunfighters Hollywood has brought back for a multi-million dollar, Western epic.
Williams, with a mustache the consistency of a wire brush and smoldering eyes , even looks the part. While Anderson might need some help with his makeup (a little more five o'clock shadow, please), nobody has to coach Sparky on being aggressive.
At this point it hardly seems necessary to state the obvious, but if there is anyone out there who doesn't know that for years Williams and Anderson have been two of the best managers in baseball, consider this statement an affidavit. Between them they have won four World Series: Dick guiding the Oakland A's to the 1972 and '73 titles; Sparky collecting championship rings with the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and '76.
In the current series Detroit broke out front with a 3-2 victory in Game 1. Anderson, of course, realizes that he and Williams must do mental battle many more times before the series ends.
Sparky is quick to acknowledge the strategic prowess of his counterpart. In fact, he told reporters during a workout in San Diego that Williams had outmanaged him in the '72 fall classic. That was the year Williams's underdog Oakland club upset Anderson's more celebrated Reds.
What Anderson was referring to mostly was a 1972 incident that involved Reds' slugger Johnny Bench, who was batting in the World Series with runners on base. After Oakland relief pitcher Rollie Fingers ran the count to three and two on Bench, Williams emerged from the dugout to hand signal what everybody assumed was an intentional base on balls.
And it sure looked that way when Oakland catcher Gene Tenace moved out to the right of home plate to take the next pitch. Only before Fingers delivered the ball, Tenace had jumped back behind the plate to gather in a called third strike. Bench, completely fooled by this maneuver, never took his bat off his shoulder.
Although the paper work Williams does during and after games has never received the publicity that Earl Weaver's ''Bird Book'' got when he managed the Baltimore Orioles, Dick's charts and graphs are just as expansive and effective.
While some managers can only win with a set lineup, Williams is a master at platooning; at finding pinch-hitters who deliver; and having just the right style relief pitcher ready out of his bullpen for that one particular moment. What Dick doesn't know about the on-the-field habits of opposing players, only the FBI could find out.
In an age of leniency with players, Williams is a disciplinarian who has never been afraid to fine even his stars, although he keeps that information to himself.
Sparky Anderson, during television interviews with the media, is everybody's favorite grandfather, a testimonial to premature silver hair and folksy language. Anderson is such a positive thinker that he can even find something nice to say about a .200 hitter who hasn't driven in a run in three months. But while Sparky's ballpark rhetoric is delightful from a news sense, the Detroit manager in his way can be as tough as Williams.
When Anderson managed Cincinnati, he was known throughout the National League as Captain Hook, a reference to how often he would yank a Reds' starting pitcher at the first hint of trouble. Maybe the pitchers didn't like it, but Sparky was right of course. At that time, Cincinnati had one of the best bullpens in baseball (remember Clay Carroll and Pedro Borbon?) and he would have been foolish not to use it.
If you have followed the way Anderson has run the Tigers this season, you already know what Sparky has done with 25 players in a game that requires only nine. For example, despite having three of baseball's top starting pitchers in Jack Morris, Dan Petry, and Milt Wilcox, the Detroit staff has recorded just 19 complete games this season.
Removing Morris, Petry, and Wilcox regularly in the late innings was not done simply to save some arms, but because Anderson may have had the best 1-2 bullpen punch in the league in Willie Hernandez and Aurelio Lopez, who had 46 saves between them.
During one stretch this season, Hernandez was 30-for-30 in save situations. Of the 30 runners who were on base when Anderson did wave Hernandez in from the bullpen, only nine scored - three due to errors and one as the fielders executed a double play.
Because both Williams and Anderson have faces that make sculptors go running for their tools, those World Series television producers who call the shots are forever ordering their cameras turned on Dick and Sparky.
If the score is close and the hour is late, you won't see either man smile much. Chances are Anderson will be engaged in conversation with his coaches, while Williams will be shuffling papers to refresh himself on some point.
There may not be two other managers in baseball who run a game better than Dick and Sparky, who were teammates at Fort Worth in the Texas League in 1955. It's a shame that one of these two hardliners will go into the record books as the losing manager in the 1984 World Series.