A Baseball Dream Come True: Ted Lyons, Chicago White Sox Pitcher and Baylor Alumnus

By Adina Johnson, graduate assistant

Ted Lyons receives a car from White Sox fans, undated

The fan favorite Ted Lyons, “The Sunday Pitcher,” is given a gift (is it the car?)  from the White Sox contingent. Ted Lyons papers #1485, Box 1, folder 5.

It is every young Little League pitcher’s dream: to lead a college baseball team to a conference championship, try out for a major league team, and pitch in the majors in the very same month. But for Baylor star pitcher Ted Lyons, this scenario was not just a dream, but a happy reality. The Theodore “Ted” Amar Lyons papers, held at The Texas Collection, tell the story of Lyons’ mercurial rise to fame as a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, the only Baylor baseball player to have such great success at the professional level.

Baylor Bears, Southwest Champs, Baylor Lariat, May 23, 1923

The Baylor Lariat headline when Ted Lyons led his team to a Southwest Conference victory in 1923.

Admitted to Baylor on a baseball scholarship in 1919, Ted Lyons was also the starting center for the Baylor basketball team. After his coach convinced him to try pitching, Lyons’ career took off. His Baylor baseball years culminated in a victory over the Texas Longhorns in 1923, where Lyons pitched a 6-2 game to claim the Southwest Conference Championship. On July 2 of that same year, Lyons signed a contract with the Chicago White Sox and pitched in his first major league game the very same day.

Ted Lyons meets George V, Edward VIII, and George VI when on tour in England, circa 1942

“Three Kings of England wearing derbys shake hands with Teddy Lyons: George V, Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, and George VI, when he was on tour in England 15 years ago.” (Description from Baylor Century, January 1943.) Ted Lyons papers #1485, Box 1, folder 4.

According to Chicago newspapers, Ted Lyons quickly became the most popular player on the White Sox team. His career would span 21 years, winning 260 games with a not-so-successful team that never finished higher than third in their division. His career included three 20-win seasons, and he led the league in wins twice. Amazingly, Lyons pitched an entire 21-inning game on May 4, 1929. Lyons was so reliable and popular that from 1939-1942 he pitched almost exclusively on Sundays, the day of highest park attendance. Thus Ted Lyons became known in baseball as “The Sunday Pitcher.”

Ted Lyons with the Baylor University Band, undated

Ted Lyons with the Baylor University Band, undated. Ted Lyons papers #1485, Box 1, folder 4.

In 1942, after a season where he posted an exceptional 2.10 ERA, Lyons left baseball to join the war effort. As a Marine, Lyons served primarily in the South Pacific, notably organizing a baseball camp in the Marshall Islands to spread goodwill with America’s national pastime. After returning to the White Sox in 1946, Lyons pitched one more season before becoming the Sox manager for three years. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.

Ted Lyons, Chicago White Sox pitcher for 21 years

Ted Lyons pitching for the Chicago White Sox, where he spent his entire 21 year career. Ted Lyons papers #1485, Box 1, folder 5.

Ted Lyons never married and spent the rest of his life back home in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Even as late as 1981, he was receiving hundreds of autograph requests each year. He died on July 25, 1986. His legacy and career as a Baylor Bear and White Sox pitcher are an indelible part of Baylor’s history. His small collection of papers at The Texas Collection, consisting of letters, clippings, and photos, will preserve his memory and fuel baseball dreams for generations of Little Leaguers to come.

More on Ted Lyons:

http://baseballhall.org/hof/lyons-ted

http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/b3442150

This entry was posted in baseball, Baylor University, Chicago White Sox, major league baseball, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Ted Lyons. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>