The versatile Sparky Adams spent 1923 and 1924 as the Chicago Cubs’ semi-regular shortstop, but came into his own when he was switched to second base for 1925 after second baseman George Grantham was traded to Pittsburgh for shortstop Rabbit Maranville. Adams led NL 2B in putouts, assists, total chances per game, and fielding average at his new position. Playing regularly, he led the league in at-bats for the first of three straight seasons and finished third in steals with 26, scoring 95 runs while batting .287. The leadoff batter improved to .309 in 1926, again scoring 95 runs, and finished second in steals (27) and third in hits. In 1927 he was moved around the infield more, playing 60 games at second base, 53 at third base, and 40 at shortstop. He scored a career-high 100 runs, finished fourth in the league in steals with 26, and hit .292. NL champion Pittsburgh sent Kiki Cuyler, who had fallen into disfavor with management, to the Cubs for Adams and Pete Scott in 1927. Adams once again replaced Grantham at second base as Grantham moved to first.
Adams’s average fell off over the next two seasons, and in 1929 he was used in a utility role. After the season he was sold to the Cardinals. Used at third base, he helped St. Louis to two straight pennants, leading NL third basemen in fielding both seasons and in double plays in 1931. In the notorious rabbit-ball season of 1930, when the league batting average was .303, all eight Cardinal regulars (300-plus at-bats) hit .300, the only time in history that has happened. Adams contributed a career-high .314. In St. Louis’s 1931 World Championship year, he led the league with 46 doubles and tied with teammate Pepper Martin for third in steals with 16. Another member of the Gas House Gang, Frankie Frisch, finished first with 28 and the Cardinals led the league in stolen bases.
In 1932 a knee injury kept Adams out for most of the year. In early May 1933 he went to the Reds along with Paul Derringer and Allyn Stout for Leo Durocher, Dutch Henry, and Jack Ogden in the deal that completed the cast of characters in the classic Gas House Gang. In Cincinnati Adams joined George Grantham again. But Adams’s knee injury had deprived him of his speed, and although he was a regular for a year and a half, his average dropped off and his major league career ended.