Lyle became the first reliever ever to win the AL Cy Young Award. Walter Iooss/SI
It was going to be tough for Danny Cater to find playing time on the 1972 New York Yankees. He had spent the previous season as a corner infielder, but the team believed top draft pick Ron Blomberg was ready to be an everyday first baseman.
The Boston Red Sox, however, had room for him in the lineup.
So they parted with young reliever Sparky Lyle.
Cater got off to a nightmarish start that summer and found himself benched by the second week in May. Though the 32-year-old eventually broke out of the slump, he finished with a career-worst .642 OPS. Boston retained him in a reduced role through 1974, never making the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Lyle immediately made the Red Sox regret their decision. He saved an AL-best 35 games in 1972—four against his former club—and received a first-place vote in MVP balloting.
The lefty became an eccentric star in the Bronx. The Yankees cycled through four managers during his tenure, but each one trusted him as a late-inning workhorse (five seasons over 100 innings pitched).
He stayed through 1978 and won two World Series titles.