Yankees & Red Sox Join Forces on the Left Handed Slider???

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Left Handed Slider Yankees Red Sox
Well not quite…. However, for the Left Handed Slider,  the 2 teams from the biggest rivalry in all of sports were linked together for some historic pitching advancement and lineage.   Sounds odd, doesn’t it?
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Sparky Lyle, won the 1977 American League Cy Young Award as a Relief Pitcher with the New York Yankees.  Originally, he broke into the big leagues with the Red Sox in 1967. Right before that, the legend himself, Ted Williams, approached him in spring training that year. The Greatest Damn Hitter that Ever Lived gave Sparky some SkyRocketing Career Advice.


Ted Williams asked Sparky,

“Do you know what the best pitch in baseball is?”

Sparky said:  

Yes I do! It’s a change up.

Williams Replied:

WRONG! It’s the Slider!!!!!! Because the Slider was the only pitch that I couldn’t when I knew it was coming!”  

Williams then explained to Lyle how the Left Handed Slider breaks.  Teddy Ball Game left Sparky with one piece of advice:

"...if you can get the Slider working for you, you’ll go straight the BIG LEAGUES!”

When the last man to bat .400 in the Major Leagues tells a pitcher how to expose a weakness in hitters, including himself, you take immediate Action, RIGHT???

So Sparky got work on the Slider, laying in bed every night tossing a baseball up trying to figure out how to throw the Slider…  The night that he got it, he went outside in the middle of darkness. Under a lone streetlight, he started throwing the Slider off a brick wall in a parking lot. He got it!!!!! It finally clicked!!!!  One day, he didn’t have a Slider, the next day he did!!!!

Sparky Lyle

The first time he threw the Slider against a hitter, he recalled the hitter missing the Dominant pitch by 3 feet!!!!!

When Ted Williams explained what the break of the Slider looks like, Sparky then knew what he had to do to make the ball move that way. Once he figured it out he never looked back. He made the Major Leagues with the Red Sox that season, as the Hall of Famer predicted.  Then he went to the Yankees in 1972, where he had the bulk of his success in his career.
"The 1st time he threw the Slider against a hitter, Sparky recalled the hitter missing the Dominant pitch by 3 Feet!!!"
The Slider made Sparky a huge success as became the premier relief pitcher in the 1970’s. Sparky went on to reach 3 Straight World Series with the Yankees, winning it all back to back, (1977-78) and the American League Cy Young Award in 1977.  The 1st Reliever ever to win the award.


He finished his 16 year Major League Career with a record of 99-76 with a 2.88 ERA and 238 Saves (The All Time Leader when he retired in 1982) in 899 Games Pitched.

Left handed Slider

The Left Handed Slider Didn't Stop there in the Yankees Lore

Sparky taught the Left Handed Slider to his young Yankee teammate, Ron Guidry.  At the time, Guidry did have a Slider, just not an effective one, as he was trying to throw both a Slider and a curveball. Having very little success with either. Under Sparky's mentorship, Guidry dropped his curveball and was getting more sharp, downward break on his Slider.
Eventually, Louisiana Lightning followed Sparky winning the Cy Young the following year, joining Lyle as the Yankees won back to back World Series titles. In his historic 1978 campaign, the Gator went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA. His defining moment of that season was his 18 K performance against the Angels.   Guidry went on to have three 20 Win Seasons.  Later in his career, he was given the prestigious honor of being named Captain of the Yankees.

"...Guidry dropped his curveball and was getting more sharp, downward break on his Slider."

The Left Handed Slider Kept Going in the Pinstripes

Guidry kept the Slider in house and taught the Dominant pitch to rookie, Dave Righetti.  Righetti first debuted with the Yankees in 1979 as a starting pitcher. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1981 as he helped the Yankees reach the World Series.  
On July 4, 1983, Rags threw a No Hitter against the Red Sox. The following season, he was converted to a very successful closer.  In 1986, he set the then single season Saves record with 46.  Righetti was in All Star in 1986-87 and tabbed as the AL Rolaids Relief award winner also in those 2 seasons.  More recently, Righetti has been the pitching coach for the current San Francisco Giants Dynasty winning the World Series in 2010, 2012, 2014.
***Side Note - Sparky Lyle was traded from the Yankees to the Texas Rangers after the 1978 season, one of the Players in return, Dave Righetti

  I remember the first day I came up to the big leagues [Yankees Manager] Billy Martin turned to me and said, 'Go talk to [Ron] Guidry and have him teach you his Slider.' That was a pitch that Sparky Lyle taught him, and then I went on to teach it a few years later to [Al] Leiter when he came up.  Guidry showed me a different grip that would allow the ball to go down a little farther than what I was throwing.   When Billy said that to me, I said to myself  'What the hell!  Why not learn the pitch from the reigning Cy Young Award Winner!"

  - Dave Righetti Excerpt from the book, CLOSER: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game By: Kevin Neary

The Next in Line to be Fortunate Enough to be Taught this Dominant Pitch

As mentioned in the quote above, Al Leiter learned the Slider from Righetti when he broke in with the Yankees in the mid 1980s.  Leiter's career accolades include 2 World Series rings (Blue Jays & Marlins) and a No Hitter.

Later on in Leiter's career, he developed a hard cutter that he used effectively to run in on right handed hitters.  The dynamic combination of the cutter coming in on the hands and the Slider darting down towards the back foot of a right handed hitter made the guessing game very frustrating.  It's extremely difficult to protect both up and down in the strike zone.

These 4 Southpaws learned how to throw a Left Handed Slider early on as Major Leaguers, which propelled them to successful careers.

The Final Tally

These 4 pitchers combined to accumulate 2 No Hitters, 2 Cy Young Awards, 1 Rookie of the Year, 11 All Star Appearances and Win 9 World Series Rings as players/coaches.

Post Pitching Career

Yankees Left-handed Slider
Like Dave Righetti, the 3 other Pinstriped Southpaws took their experience to the endeavor of coaching and mentoring after their playing days ended.  
Sparky Lyle Managed the Somerset Patriots of the Independent Atlantic League from 1998-2012, winning the league Championship 5 times.   
As for Ron Guidry, along with being an annual Spring Training Instructor with the Yankees, he was their pitching coach for 2006-07, helping lead them into the postseason both years.  
Al Leiter is a well renown and highly knowledgeable TV analyst for MLB Network and the YES Network.  
All 4 men have given back to the game of baseball which has given them so much, mainly via the Slider.  This just goes to show, that when you have talent as a ball player and you are willing to put in the work, teammates, mentors and even Legends will show up to help you succeed.  

...regardless of of what team you may play for some day

Because Baseball is a very rewarding game for those who fully dedicate themselves.   When the Slider collects hardware like this from the highest level of baseball in world, just imagine what it can do for your pitching career???


Keep Dominating!!!

left handed Slider

Brad Kirsch

Slider Domination Brad Kirsch Brad Kirsch is the Owner/Creator of Slider Domination. He is a former professional pitcher who blogs about all things Pitching. Brad has also authored the AudioBook, 7 Reasons Why YOU Should Throw a Slider. If you haven’t done so already, you can Download the AudioBook Here

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