January 26, 2019
Whole Number 183
FRANK SPARKS -- STAR BASEBALL PITCHER
A COLLECTOR'S BASEBALL CARD OF ABOUT 1907 FRANK SPARKS (1874-1937)
A STAR PITCHER FOR THE PHILADELPHIA NATIONAL TEAM (1903-1910)
Frank Sparks had a twelve-year career in baseball, beginning in 1897. The photograph of the baseball card that is reproduced on the cover of this issue of the Quarterly was provided by Sallie McHenry of Sherman Oaks, California. We hope there may be a collector of baseball cards among our members Who can tell us whether the size and design of this card is typical of those printed in the first decade of the present century. We know that Frank Sparks was a pitcher for the Philadelphia National Baseball Team from 1903 to 1910, so this card was printed during that period.
[CORRECTION: In the Quarterly of June 1998, Whole No. 182, page 4994, we erred in giving Sallie McHenry's E-Mail address. It is: SalUel23@17EBTV.NET.]
Information regarding Frank Sparks and his ancestry appeared in the June 1998 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 182, p. 4986; also p. 3242 of the June 1988 issue. Whole No. 142. He was born December 12, 1874, at Etna, Georgia, a son of Linton and Sarah (Wimberly) Sparks. Eula (Sparks) Foster, a sister of Frank Sparks, wrote an interesting biographical sketch of their father, Linton Sparks, that we presented on pp. 4994-97 of the June 1988 Quarterly, cited above.
Sallie McHenry, whose grandmother, Sallie (Sparks) McHenry (1888-1962), was a first cousin of Frank Sparks, has sent us a copy of a newspaper clipping with Frank's picture, found among her family's papers. We have reproduced this photo, above. We do not know the date of this newspaper nor the place where it was published, but the date was probably between 1907 and 1910. We now believe that that his full birth name was Thomas Frank Sparks. He is remembered as "Tully Sparks" in baseball history, and with an erroneous date of birth in most such sources, i.e., "April 18, 1877." According to family records, he was born December 12, 1874.
The 1907 season was Frank's best, according to The New Phillies Encyclopedia by Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993);
"...he had the kind of season [in 1907] most pitchers never achieve. He was 22-8 for a .714 percentage with an even 2.00 ERA and had 24 complete games out of 33. At one point, he won 10 games in a row." His statistics began to drop in 1908, however, and he was reported "out of condition" in 1909, with only 6 wins in 17 games. "After three games of the 1910 season, his Phillies and big league career was over."
Frederick G. Lieb and Stan Baumgartner, in their The Philadelphia Phillies (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1953), described "Tully Frank Sparks" (p. 68) as "a soft-spoken Southerner from Monroe, Louisiana," and "a smooth, easy worker, with good control and lots of mound savvy. Fans always liked to see him pitch, win or lose he always gave a good account of himself..."
The newspaper article below the photo of Frank (see p. 5025) noted that he was "temperate and studious in his habits... It was at the State university at Athens that the veteran twirler learned the rudiments of the game."
Family records indicate that Frank Sparks was married twice. His first marriage was brief and ended in divorce, without children. Late in life, in May 1936, he was married, second, to a widow, Mrs. Sadie (Patterson) Comer. They had no children. He died on July 15, 1937, in Anniston, Alabama.