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Original Issue

Sparky Lyle, Cy Young Winner AUGUST 21, 1972

In his first couple of seasons as manager of the Somerset County
(N.J.) Patriots of the independent Atlantic League, Sparky Lyle
would grab a bucket of balls and throw batting practice. His
players hated it. "I was always running the damn ball in on them,
moving it around," says the former major league lefthander, who
just turned 58. "I wasn't trying to. It's just that I still can't
throw a straight ball to save my life."

Having a live arm and a deceptive slider enabled Lyle to spend 16
seasons with five big league teams and become the first reliever
to win the American League Cy Young Award (as a New York Yankee
in 1977). But his career had little to do with his learning of
the job in the Atlantic League. He happened upon that gig because
he needed a truck and knew that John Vukovich, a former
Philadelphia Phillies teammate, had gotten a good price from a
dealer named Steven Kalafer. At the time that Lyle called to
inquire about a vehicle, in 1998, Kalafer was looking for a
manager for his fledgling Patriots. "How about it?" Kalafer asked

"Why not?" said Lyle, who also bought the truck.

Lyle, who retired after the 1982 season because his slider had
lost its pop, had been out of baseball to that point. After
spending what he calls "the best five years of my life" working
with Mickey Mantle as a greeter at an Atlantic City casino, he
traveled the country making personal appearances, mostly at card
shows. "I didn't make motivational speeches," says Lyle. "I was a
storyteller." During his last year in the majors, with the
Chicago White Sox, he was asked to teach a young pitcher his
slider, which was the only pitch Lyle ever threw. "The kid--I
don't even remember his name--basically told me to get lost," says
Lyle. "I never had any desire to manage or coach after that."

But Kalafer's offer sounded intriguing, and Lyle approached it
with his normal gusto. "I got thrown out of 13 games that first
season," says Lyle. "I yelled and screamed and MF'd the umps to
death. I had a lot to learn." He learned it. Last season Lyle led
the Patriots to the Atlantic championship, getting tossed only
three times in the process. As of Sunday the 14-14 Patriots were
in last place in the South Division of the eight-team Class
AA-caliber league, and Lyle had been run twice. Managing
frustrates him sometimes, but he has come to enjoy calling the
shots and would like to do it at a higher level. Just don't hire
him to pitch BP. --Jack McCallum

COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER (COVER) BIG RELIEF Lyle, a lefty, relied on his slider to log 238 saves. Having managed the Somerset Patriots for five years, Lyle doesn't rule out calling the shots at a higher level one day.