SWC’s only Baseball Hall of Famer is a Baylor Bear
The Southwest Conference featured a lot of good baseball during its 82 years, but 20 years after it saw its final pitch, only one SWC alumnus has found a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame — and he’s a Baylor Bear.
In fact, from age 19 until he retired at age 45, Theodore Amar (Ted) Lyons pitched for only two teams: Baylor, and the Chicago White Sox. Over the course of his 21-year professional career, Lyons led the league in wins (twice), innings pitched (twice), shutouts (twice), complete games (twice) and ERA (once), despite pitching for teams that were usually closer to last place than first.
In all, he pitched in 594 games, compiling a career record of 260-230 and an ERA of 3.67. “If Lyons had been with the Yankees,” Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy once ventured, “my guess would be that he would have won 400 games.” The great Ted Williams often listed Lyons among the toughest pitchers he ever faced, and in 2001, baseball historian Bill James ranked Lyons among the top 50 pitchers of all-time. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.
A Louisiana native, Lyons was initially headed to LSU for college before he met some Baylor students at a Baptist camp. Even then, he reportedly came to Baylor on a band scholarship — only to lose that scholarship when his trombone was broken in a melee during a football game against Texas A&M. Lyons also intended to pursue a career in law, but “I came to realize I had a little better fastball and curve than I did a vocabulary,” he later joked.
At Baylor, Lyons lettered in both basketball and baseball from 1920-23, earning All-SWC honors in both sports as a sophomore, junior and senior. In his final season, he helped lead Baylor baseball to its first conference championship; from there, he went directly to the big leagues, pitching in nine games for Chicago that summer and fall. Two years later, he led the American League in wins.
Lyons pitched effectively for the next two decades, even into his 40s. In fact, he led the league in ERA in 1942 at age 41 — then walked away from the game to volunteer for duty in World War II. After serving with the Marines in the Pacific theatre of action for three years, he returned to the White Sox in 1946, playing one final season and then managing the team for a total of three years. He remains the only Bear ever to manage in the major leagues.
Lyons later served as a pitching coach for the Tigers and Dodgers, then as a scout for the White Sox until his retirement in 1967 after more than four decades in baseball. He passed away in 1986 at the age of 85, and a year later, had his jersey number retired by the White Sox. Seventy years after he retired, he remains the White Sox’ all-time leader in career wins and innings pitched.
“If I had the choice of any pitcher for a clutch game,” Hall of Famer Tris Speaker once said, “the guy I’d pick would be Ted Lyons.”
Sic ’em, Ted Lyons!