BRIDGEWATER, NJ — Collectors can own a unique piece of New York Yankees history if they attend Joe Bodnar’s Sports Memorabilia Auction this weekend and are willing to dig deep in to their pockets.
A pair of cleats worn by former New York Yankees relief pitcher Sparky Lyle in the early 1970s will be sold during Bodnar’s auction at TD Bank Ballpark Sunday, July 29, following the Patriots 5:05 p.m. game against the Road Warriors.
The cleats have a pre-sale estimate of $800 to $1,200.
Lyle donated the leather cleats to Operation Shoebox New Jersey, which will be the beneficiary of all monies raised during the sports memorabilia sale hosted by the award-winning auctioneer. The sale will also feature several other Patriots’ and Major League items, including signed baseballs, vintage photos and a limited edition print of Lyle by renowned sports artist James Fiorentino.
Also, a commemorative team-signed Patriots’ jersey from the July 6 game and a luxury suite for a Patriots’ game.
Lyle, now manager emeritus of the Somerset Patriots, managed the Atlantic League team for 15 years, winning five league championships.
Long before he became the figurehead of the Patriots, Lyle pitched in the Major Leagues for 16 years, making his debut with the Red Sox on July 4, 1967 when he was 22.
He was traded by the Boston Red Sox to New York Yankees in exchange for Danny Cater and a player to be named later on March 22, 1972; the Red Sox received Mario Guerrero on June 30 that year.
Strictly a relief pitcher — Lyle never started a game during his 16-year big league career — he became the Yankees’ “go to” lefty in the bullpen over the next several years, helping to lead the Yankees to a World Series championship in 1977; Lyle was also singled out for his pitching prowess hat year, becoming the first relief pitcher to win the coveted Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in Major League baseball.
Lyle sat down for an interview with Bodnar during which he verified that the cleats were his, worn sometime during the 1973, ’74 or ’75 seasons. Lyle said he removed the Wilson manufacturer’s tag on the tongues of both shoes, and wrote his last name on the inside of the soft kangaroo leather in black block letters.
Vintage photos of Lyle from the 1975 season show him on the mound at Yankee Stadium wearing a pair of spikes similar to those being sold at the auction.
The tree-time All-Star recalls during the interview that during those years, players did not have lucrative endorsement deals with manufacturers of the cleats worn on the field during the game; each team would only issue a few pairs to each player during the season.
A longtime supporter of Operation Shoebox New Jersey, Lyle will also attend a packing hosted by the volunteer organization and the Patriots at TD Bank Ballpark on Saturday, July 28 beginning at 11 a.m. More than 1,000 personal care packages will be assembled by volunteers for shipment to U.S. troops deployed around the world.
Volunteers are needed to help; all those who attend will be given a free ticket to the July 29 game which will include the auction that begins at the game's conclusion.
Credit cards accompanied by photo ID will be accepted. All sales are final.
Those unable to attend the game but who want to participate in the auction can do so on Bodnar’s website by clicking on the “Live Auction” button at the bottom right of the home page.
Bodnar hosts a monthly three-ring auction at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, featuring over 5,000 lots of merchandise. He is the reigning bid calling champion of the New Jersey State Society of Auctioneers.
Further information is available by calling Bodnar’s Auction at 908-693-6278; Operation Shoebox New Jersey, 908-698-0333 or the Somerset Patriots at 908-252-0700.