Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sparky Lyle (#311)

Here is the rookie card for relief pitcher Albert "Sparky" Lyle.

Lyle made his major-league debut with the Red Sox on July 4, 1967, and appeared in 27 games over the rest of the season, as the Sox made their way to the World Series. Lyle was not included on a "Red Sox Rookie Stars" card, nor on a last-series "AL Rookie Stars" card in the 1967 set.

Even more amazing is that he was also left out of the 1968 set, despite his 1967 performance. Sparky was with Boston for the entire 1968 season, pitching in 49 games. (Other notable rookies not in the 1968 set include Reggie Jackson, Del Unser, and Bobby Bonds.)

Lyle was signed by the Orioles in June 1964, and was primarily a starter in his first season. That fall, the Red Sox selected him in the 1st-year player draft, and converted him to a reliever in 1965. He pitched 2 1/2 seasons in Boston's farm system before he was promoted in July 1967.

In his 5 seasons with Boston, Sparky pitched 260 games, all in relief. During Spring training in 1972, he was traded to the Yankees for first baseman Danny Cater and shortstop Mario Guerrero.

Lyle was the Yankees' bullpen ace for the next 7 seasons, collecting 141 saves with New York. He led the AL in saves in 1972 (35) and 1976 (23). In 1977 he led the AL in games pitched (72) and won the Cy Young award. He pitched in the post-season in '76, '77, and '78.

After the 1978 season, he was traded to the Rangers in a 5-for-5 deal that sent pitcher Dave Righetti to the Bronx. Lyle was with Texas for almost 2 years, pitching behind closer Jim Kern.

In mid-September 1980, he was acquired by the Phillies to help push them to the post-season. He compiled a 1.93 ERA in 10 games during the last two weeks of the season, but he joined the team too late to be eligible for the post-season.

Lyle remained with the Phillies until he was sold to the White Sox in August 1982. He was released after the season, ending his 16-year career.

Sparky managed in the unaffiliated Atlantic League from 1998-2001.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Curt Flood (#540)

Yesterday would have been the 75th birthday for 1960s Cardinals' outfielder /Free Agency pioneer Curt Flood. (He passed away 16 years ago tomorrow.)

This is Flood's last card as a St. Louis Cardinal, and he looks pretty weary. He was the Cards' regular center fielder from 1958-69, and teamed up with Lou Brock for his last 6 seasons there.

A 7-time gold glove center fielder, and former leadoff hitter (prior to Brock's arrival), I was surprised to see that he didn't steal that many bases, getting a season-high 12 steals in 1962.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Final Card: Mickey Mantle

Starting the new year off in style...

Replacing Billy Martin at the top of this blog is his partner in crime, Mickey Mantle (#500). Mickey and Billy were teammates from 1951 until Martin was traded during the 1957 season. Their off-field exploits are legendary. I like this story particularly.

After 14 straight years as an all-star, Mantle was left off the team in 1966. His numbers actually began to decline in 1965, and would continue to do so for his last 4 seasons.

Mickey switched to first base at the start of the 1967 season, and would play there exclusively for his last 2 seasons, appearing in 131 games each season. He also returned  to the all-star game in his final 2 years.

Mantle retired during spring training 1969, with a .298 career batting average, and having played more games than any other Yankee (later surpassed by Derek Jeter).

Having retired before the season, I don't think it was a given that he would get a card that season, and since he was given the "ultimate" card number (#500), we had to wait until well into the season before he appeared on the 5th series checklist (issued in the 4th series). I was thrilled to break open a pack in 1969 and find Mickey Mantle!

Several months after his retirement, the Yankees held Mickey Mantle Day.

Mantle passed away on August 13, 1995 at age 63. I cried that day.

Also check out Mickey on two cards in the 1968 set.