Up next in the set is card #13 which features Detorit Tigers pitcher Joe Sparma. This card never made a major impression on me when I was a kid because I didn't know the players name and I didn't care much about the Detroit Tigers. If anything the photo of Sparma looked to me like it was taken in someone's expansive backyard. I got that impression with a lot of the photoes featured in this set because I always saw players in those massive cathedrals known as Major League Baseball Stadiums. How often do you see Whitey Ford posed as though he just through a legendary curveball on a barren open field? I grew up in the 1980's with cards mostly featuring game action shots during the season, not preseason poses. That all said the Sparma card basically missed my eyes as a kid even though he doesn't seem to have a well fitting hat.
He played football for Ohio State in the early 60's, one of the best NCAA football programs ever. Wikipedia has a nice little story of Sparma and his meeting Mickey Mantle for the first time while pitching against him on Mickey Mantle Day.
Joe Sparma was primarily a starting pitcher in his career. He had a rocky injury prone career as a pitcher up until the '67 season where he went 16-9 and throwing 5 shutouts. He did all of this with a fairly high 3.76 ERA for that time. Earned Run Averages were plummeting toward the end of the 60's as were also home run totals. This prompted the lowering of the mound in 1969. Starting pitcher ERAs rarely approached the likes of Denny McLain (1.96 in '68) and Bob Gibson (1.12 in '68) ever since.
Sparma's high ERA leads me to believe that while he was probably a hard throwning pitcher (short career), his pitches didn't have much movement. Hard throwers didn't last long in the Majors in those days unless they try to reinvent themselves as knuckleballers once the wear and tear set in. Sparma didn't seem to do this.
His career continued to go fairly well for the 1968 World Champion Tigers team. He managed a 10-10 record in 31 starts, throwing 1 shutout and recording a 3.70 ERA. He was included in the World Series roster of the Tigers but he only appeared as a reliever. He managed only a third of an inning surrending in a two run home run in his lone appearance.
That series appearance was just after the end of Sparma's brief peak in the Majors. In 1969 he managed 23 starts a 6-8 losing record for the season. While a pair of those wins were shutouts his season ERA ballooned a full ERA point (4.76). The next season, Sparma found himself with the year old Montreal Expos. That was where his career came to an end without managing to win a single game for the 73-89 Expos. While his career was brief, he managed to do something Ernie Banks, Robin Roberts so many other players failed to achieve in long careers, earn a World Series ring.
Sparma passed away in 1986 because of serious heart troubles. He was 44 years old.