Thursday, November 1, 2012

Joe Sparma (#505)

Joe Sparma was the forgotten man for the Tigers in the 1968 post-season. The team's #4 starter, he was relegated to the bullpen for the post-season, since teams used a 3-man rotation in those days. He did pitch 1/3 of an inning in the Series.

Joe went to the same Massillon, Ohio high school as former Athletics' outfielder Mike Hershberger, although Joe was 3 years younger than Mike. Joe was also a quarterback at Ohio State in 1961 and 1962. He and teammate Paul Warfield led Ohio State to the Big 10 championship in '61.

Sparma was signed by the Tigers in 1963. After 1+ seasons in the minors he was called up in late-May 1964 and remained with the Tigers for the rest of the season, making 11 starts and 10 relief appearances.

Although Joe spent some time in the Tigers' bullpen in 1966 and 1969, he was primarily a starter during his years with Detroit. His best season came in 1967, when he collected 16 wins in 37 starts, while striking out 153 batters in 217 innings (all career highs for him. Sparma was pitching a no-hitter against the Pilots on 5/31/1969 when Don Mincher got a hit with one out in the 9th inning.

After feuding with manager Mayo Smith for more than a year, Joe was traded to Montreal in December 1969 for pitcher Jerry Robertson, who was 5-16 in his rookie season for the expansion Expos.

Sparma compiled an 0-4 record in 9 games (all by May 12th), and was promptly sent down to the minors for the rest of the 1970 season. He pitched for the Tigers' AAA team in 1971, before retiring.

Joe suffered a heart attack and died following bypass surgery on May 14, 1986 at age 44.

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