Some of the Top Cards of 1976

Saturday, September 4, 2010

1976 Topps #545 - Sparky Lyle

  • Sparky Lyle was a relief pitcher in the major leagues from 1967-1982. Sparky was a notorious clubhouse prankster -- his most famous prank was to sit on birthday cakes and leave the imprint of his rear end on them.
  • Lyle was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1964. After playing a season in Baltimore's system Sparky was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the first year player draft. Lyle pitched in the Red Sox system from 1965 until the middle of the 1967 season. Sparky's career took off when he learned the slider during spring training in 1966.
  • Sparky was called up in late June of 1967 and had a good rookie season. Lyle went 1-2 with five saves and had a 2.28 ERA in 27 games for the Red Sox. He was left off of Boston's post season roster because of a sore arm.
  • Lyle became Boston's closer and enjoyed several successful seasons with them:
    • 1968: 6-1, 11 saves, 2.74 ERA
    • 1969: 8-3, 17 saves, 2.54 ERA
    • 1970: 1-7, 20 saves, 3.88 ERA
    • 1971: 6-4, 16 saves, 2.75 ERA
  • After the 1971 season Lyle was traded to the New York Yankees for Danny Cater and Mario Guerrero.
  • Sparky had several more good years with the Yankees. In 1972 Lyle was 9-5 with a league-leading 35 saves and a 1.92 ERA. Lyle finished 7th in AL Cy Young Award voting and third in MVP voting. Sparky Lyle: Key to the "New" Yankees - November 1972 Baseball Digest.
  • Lyle made his first AL All Star team in 1973 and pitched a scoreless 9th inning. Sparky went 5-9 with 27 saves and a 2.51 ERA in '73. Sparky Lyle: The Yankees' Life Saver - October 1973 Baseball Digest
  • Lyle went 9-3 with 15 saves and a 1.66 ERA in 1974. In 1975 Sparky was 5-7 with six saves and a 3.12 ERA.
  • Sparky helped the Yankees to the AL pennant in 1976. He made the AL All Star team (he wasn't used in the game) and was 7-8 with 23 saves and a 2.26 ERA. Lyle pitched in one game in the ALCS and earned the save in game 3. Lyle was used twice in the World Series and didn't allow any runs in 2.2 innings of work.
  • Lyle had his best season in 1977. Sparky won the AL Cy Young Award and finished 6th in MVP voting. Sparky went 13-5 with 26 saves and a 2.17 ERA in '77. Lyle won two games in the ALCS and was the winning pitcher in the Yankees' 12-inning game 1 victory in the World Series. Sparky got roughed up in the 1977 All Star game -- he pitched the 8th and 9th innings and allowed two runs. Success Hasn't Spoiled Sparky Lyle - February 1978 Baseball Digest
  • The Yankees signed Goose Gossage before the 1977 season and Lyle was relegated to a set-up and occasional closer role in 1978. Graig Nettles famously quipped that Lyle went "from Cy Young to sayonara." Sparky went 9-3 with nine saves and had a 3.47 ERA in 1978. Lyle pitched in one game in the 1978 ALCS and allowed one run in 1.1 innings. He wasn't used in the World Series.
  • After the 1978 season Lyle was traded with four other players to the Texas Rangers for five players. The most famous player the Yankees got out of that deal was Dave Righetti (a minor leaguer at the time).
  • Sparky had a pretty good year for the Rangers in 1979 -- he went 5-8 with 13 saves and a 3.13 ERA. In 1980 Lyle wasn't as successful. Sparky was 3-2 with eight saves and a 4.69 ERA when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kevin Saucier on September 13. Sparky pitched in ten games for the Phillies and had two saves and a 1.93 ERA to help them win the NL East title. Lyle wasn't on the Phillies' postseason roster because he was acquired too late in the season.
  • In 1981 Lyle was 9-6 with two saves and a 4.44 ERA. Sparky pitched in three games in the NLDS and allowed no runs in 2.1 innings.
  • Sparky struggled in 1982. He started the season with the Phillies and went 3-3 with two saves with a 5.15 ERA. Lyle was sold to the Chicago White Sox on August 21. He pitched in 11 games and had a 3.00 ERA with one save for the White Sox to finish the 1982 season. The White Sox released Sparky after the 1982 season and he retired.
  • Lyle became the manager of the minor league Somerset Patriots in 1998. He has been the team's only manager and the team has won five titles under Sparky's leadership. Where Are They Now? - February 2003 Baesball Digest
  • Lyle wrote The Bronx Zoo with Peter Golenbock in 1979. It chronicled the 1978 season with the Yankees. He also cowrote The Year I Owned the Yankees (a fantasy about Lyle owning the Yankees for a season) in 1990.
  • Liked to face: Brian Downing (.000 in 14 AB); Jim Spencer (.050 in 20 AB); Graig Nettles (.091 in 22 AB)
  • Hated to face: Mike Hegan (.875 in 8 AB); Bruce Bochte (.500 in 14 AB); Lou Piniella (.471 in 17 AB).


  1. You may have commented on this on an earlier Yankee card. Notice Sparky in a Yankees home uni with Shea stadium in the background. In '74 and '75 the Yanks played their home games at Shea during the Yankee Stadium remodel.