Anderson was a "good field, no-hit" middle infielder as a player. He played one full season in the major leagues, as the regular second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959. However, a .218 average with no power ended his big-league career at that point.
He played the next four seasons at Triple-A Toronto in the International League, but never got a second chance in the majors. Finally, in 1964, Anderson moved into the manager's job in Toronto. He won four pennants as a minor league manager between 1964 and 1968, then spent 1969 as a coach for the San Diego Padres. Finally, in 1970, Anderson was named manager of the Reds.
He won 102 games and the pennant in his first season, but then lost the World Series in five games to the Baltimore Orioles. After an injury-plagued 1971, the Reds came back and won another pennant in 1972, losing to the Oakland Athletics. They took the National League West division title in 1973, then finished a close second to the Los Angeles Dodgers a year later.
Finally, in 1975, the Reds blew the division open by winning 108 games, swept the playoffs and then edged the Boston Red Sox in a drama-filled, seven-game World Series. They repeated in 1976 by winning 102 games and ultimately sweeping the New York Yankees in the Series.
When the aging Reds finished second to the Dodgers in each of the next two seasons, Anderson was fired. The Reds would not make the playoffs again for a dozen years.
He moved on to the young Detroit Tigers after being hired as their new manager on June 14, 1979. The Tigers became a winning club almost immediately, but didn't get into contention until 1983, when they finished second. In 1984, Anderson won the first of two Manager of the Year Awards.
A year later, Detroit opened the season 35-5 (a major league record) and breezed to a 104-58 record. They swept the Kansas City Royals in the playoffs and then beat the San Diego Padres in the World Series for Anderson's third world title.
Anderson led the Tigers to the majors' best record in 1987, but the team was upset in the playoffs by the Minnesota Twins. He won his second Manager of the Year Award that year. After contending again in 1988, the team collapsed a year later.
He probably did his best managerial job in 1991, when the Tigers finished last in batting average, first in batting strikeouts and near the bottom of the league in most pitching categories, but still led their division in late August before settling for a second-place finish. The secret was a power-packed lineup led by sluggers Cecil Fielder, Mickey Tettleton and Rob Deer which led the league in home runs and walks that season.