This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Tully Sparks spent nearly a decade with the Philadelphia Phillies, winning 95 games between 1903 and 1910. However, he took a long and windy road to get there. Prior to 1903, Sparks split 4 seasons between 5 different clubs. At some point in 1902, he signed on with the 3rd place Boston Americans.
Sparks played for the 7th place Pittsburgh Pirates in 1899, and was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 1900 season. Unfortunately for him, the Pirates ended up as a first place team within two seasons. When he returned to the major leagues in 1901, it was with the 8th place Milwaukee Brewers who had just purchased his contract from the Phillies.
The Milwaukee Brewers then moved to St. Louis for the 1902 season and were renamed the Browns. For reasons unknown, Sparks jumped ship and joined the New York Giants for that season. The St. Louis Browns went from 8th place as the Brewers in 1901 to finish 2nd place as the Browns in 1901. By comparison, the New York Giants finished the season with a 48-88 record, good for last place in the standings, 53 games out of first place. In Sparks’ defense, he had already been released in July by the time the Giants finished with a 48-88 record. Despite a 3.76 ERA, Sparks had the worst numbers of any starting pitcher on the team.
Tully Sparks was not unemployed for long as he signed on with the Boston Americans a month later, joining Cy Young, Bill Dineen and George Winter in the Boston rotation. The Americans finished with a respectable 77-60 record.
For reasons unknown(again!), Tully Sparks jumped ship, this time for the basement dwelling Philadelpia Phillies prior to the 1903 season. Perhaps Sparks knew the Americans were going to insert Tom Hughes into the rotation, or perhaps they had to go to Hughes because of Sparks’ departure. Either way, the result may have played a role in the first World Series championship for the Boston Americans. Sparks went on to have a good career with the Phillies, but during his tenure the Phillies were unable to reach the postseason.
Though he died over 70 years ago… Happy 135th Birthday, Tully Sparks!