BRIDGEWATER, NJ – Sparky Lyle is inviting volunteers to join him at TD Bank Ballpark Saturday morning to help Operation Shoebox New Jersey assemble 1,000 personal care packages that will be shipped to US troops deployed around the world.
Lyle, Manager Emeritus of the Somerset Patriots, is a fixture at the ballpark and attends the annual packing event sponsored by Operation Shoebox New Jersey every year.
The event is open to all ages and will begin at 11 a.m. and continue through 2 p.m. Volunteers will work in an assembly line picking food and toiletry items from marked bins and, placing the items in gallon bags that will be placed inside the boxes destined for delivery overseas.
Weather will not be a factor. Work will be done on the concourse where volunteers will be protected from either the sun or rain.
All volunteers will be given a ticket to the Sunday, July 29 ballgame which will feature a sports memorabilia auction hosted by auctioneer Joe Bodnar.
Lyle has donated a pair of cleats worn during his days as a relief pitcher with the New York Yankees in the early 1970s to 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 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.
Credit cards accompanied by photo ID will be accepted. All sales are final.
All monies raised during the auction will be donated to Operation Shoebox New Jersey and will be used to pay the shipping costs of the care packages.
Those unable to attend the game but who want to participate in the auction can do so on Bodnar’s website, www.bodnarsauction.com by clicking on the “Live Auction” button at the bottom right of the home page.
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 30th 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 said in 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.
Further information is available by calling Operation Shoebox New Jersey, (908) 698-0333.