By Adina Johnson, graduate assistant
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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