No pranks here: this 4th of July weekend at TD Bank Ballpark, home of the Somerset Patriots, Sparky Lyle and I sat down, in a one-on-one interview, to chat about a multitude of different topics.
Always known for keeping the mood in the clubhouse light, the 3x All-Star, 2x World Series champion, and the 1st AL-Cy Young winning relief pitcher animatedly divulged his top pranks: putting his bare behind in teammates’ birthday cakes, filling a teammate’s shower towel with black shoe polish, and tricking Yogi Berra into brushing his teeth with Vaseline. He even recounted a story in which a masterful Fritz Peterson prank in Minnesota landed Lyle in handcuffs!
A fan of the rock band the Eagles, at the end of the interview, I even had Lyle complete the lyrics to arguable their two most famous songs: “Take it Easy” and “Hotel California”. After saying “Oh God, I don’t know if I could do that”, he fared well!
Yankee Universe should be grateful to Red Sox Nation: the baseball legend Ted Williams was the inspiration behind Lyle’s bread-and-butter pitch, the slider. He talked about his conversations with Williams and bequeathing the secrets behind the pitch to his teammate Ron Guidry. Did you know that at one Old Timer’s Day, Mariano Rivera once asked Lyle about possibly adding the slider to his repertoire? He told Rivera: “What, are you crazy?! You don’t need that pitch.”
As a former closer, I asked Lyle what made Rivera, the all-time saves leader, so legendary. Lyle and I also compared his entrance song “Pomp and Circumstance” to Rivera’s “Enter Sandman”. When I played his, with a laugh, Lyle said “that’s not a good one”. Even today, he said he’d opt for no entrance song.
We touched on how the game of baseball has evolved since the 70’s and 80’s: Lyle often closed out games in pitching more than just the 9th inning. What effect does a bullpen of Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman have on opponents?
In seriousness, we talked about the memory of Thurman Munson, “Lyle’s catcher”. To this, he said: “Thurman will always be my captain. This was a man who lead by example and backed it up, time after time. Very few people do that.”
Lyle was named “manager emeritus” of the Somerset Patriots, a team with which he won five championships in 15 years. “I was very happy here, and I’m still happy here”. When I asked if he had aspirations for a Major League managerial job, with a laugh he replied: “[I’m] way too old. Plus, in the Major Leagues, … in three years you’re gunna get fired.”