The 5 Best Yankees Mustaches: Sparky Lyle
With the latest Yankee- Matt Carpenter- sporting some hair above the lip, let's take this week to look at the best Yankees mustaches!
Before the Mustache:
Albert Walker "Sparky" Lyle was born in DuBois, PA on July 22nd, 1944. He would live and play in DuBois as a kid, though he never officially played high school baseball as his high school did not have an organized team. Instead, he played for the DuBois American Legion team. While there he got the attention of a scout from the Pittsburgh Pirates who brought him in for a tryout, only to sign Bruce Del Canton instead. However, Lyle did impress scout George Staller of the Baltimore Orioles who signed him as an amateur to play professional ball in 1964 as a 19-year-old.
Then, Sparky Lyle- after spending a year in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system- was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in November of 1964. Lyle would spend the next three years moving up the minor league ladder- one year at each level (A, AA, AAA)- before breaking into the MLB with the Red Sox halfway through his 1967 campaign in 1967 after reliever Dennis Bennett was traded to the New York Mets. Lyle would then be used as a back-end reliever for the Red Sox from 1967-1968 and as their closer from 1969-1971. This would be the end of his Red Sox tenure.
During Spring Training in 1972, Lyle was traded to the New York Yankees for a package of Danny Cater and a PTBNL (Mario Guerrero). Lyle would go on to place 3rd in the AL MVP voting (yet 7th for the Cy Young) for the Yankees in 1972 and then become an All-Star in 1973, though during an off year. That would be the end of the mustache-less Sparky Lyle.
Career Stats (before the Mustache): 370 Games Pitched, 36 Wins (31 Losses), 2.61 ERA (136 ERA+), 521.1 Innings, 444 Hits, 413 K's, 180 Walks, and a 1.197 WHIP.
After the Mustache:
How it came about that Sparky Lyle would don a mustache I am not sure, but I sure happy that he did. As stated by the Baseball Hall of Fame, "In 1974, Lyle added a mustache to his facial repertoire – the mustache would become a trademark for him – but far more importantly, turned his pitching from merely good to positively brilliant." From here on, Lyle would wear hair above the lip.
Lyle would spend 5 more mustache-filled years with the New York Yankees from 1974 and 1978. This stretch saw Lyle twice be an American League All-Star a Top-10 American League MVP finisher once, and the 1977 American League Cy Young Award winner. However, it was not all filled with joy. After winning the 1977 Cy Young, the Yankees acquired a reliever from the Pittsburgh Pirates by the name of Richard "Goose" Gossage, who then supplanted Lyle as the Yankees closer. Lyle would pitch 1978 mostly in middle relief and even missed out on the 1978 playoffs due to a varicose vein flareup near his pelvis. This would mark the end of his Yankees tenure.
Lyle then expressed discontent with the Yankees and desired to become a Texas Ranger after the 1978 season, getting traded their on November 10th as part of a 9 player trade that brought Dave Righetti to the Yankees.
Lyle would spend the greater part of two seasons with the Rangers between 1979 and 1980 before he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in September of 1980 for a PTBNL (Kevin Saucier). He would not be postseason eligible for the Phillies either after being traded too late in the season, missing out on their 1980 run to the franchises' first World Series title.
Lyle would stick with the Phillies through the 1981 season and through the 1982 until August 21st when he was bought by the Chicago White Sox. He lasted less than 2 months, pitching his last game on September 27th and getting released on October 12th.
Career Stats (after the Mustache): 529 Games Pitched, 63 Wins (45 Losses), 3.04 ERA (124 ERA+), 869.0 Innings, 848 Hits, 460 K's, 301 Walks, and a 1.322 WHIP.
After his playing career was over, Sparky Lyle became the first manager in the history of the Somerset Patriots, leading them to the Atlantic League pennant 5 times from 1998-2012 when he essentially retired from the role to become the manager emeritus. He was an instrumental part in the Yankees taking on the Somerset Patriots as their Double-A affiliate during the 2021 realignment.