LOUISIANA'S 4 HALL OF FAMERS
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Lake Charles native, Vinton resident and famed pitcher Ted Lyons presented a curious case for Hall of Fame voters. On paper, Lyons’ stats would seem to make him a marginal Hall candidate; after 21 years in the Majors, all with the Chicago White Sox, Lyons’ win-loss record was only 260-230, and his 3.67 career earned run average is the second-highest of any Hall of Fame pitcher.
Those numbers undoubtedly contributed to the hesitancy the Hall selectors showed when considering him for induction. Lyons retired in 1946, but he wasn’t chosen for the shrine until 1955, on his eighth ballot.
But if you look past the black and white, you perhaps see why Lyons’ statistics were so modest. During his two-decade-plus Major League career – Lyons didn’t spend a day in the minors – the White Sox were perennial losers who never provided the support Lyons needed to post better numbers. In fact, Joe McCarthy, who managed many of the Yankee championship teams during Lyons’ career, once said, “If he’d pitched for the Yankees, he would have won over 400 games.”
In addition, Lyons’ loyalty and dedication to the White Sox, despite the franchise’s lousiness, endeared him to Chicago fans and made him the team’s career leader in pitching wins to this day. One of those victories was a no-hitter tossed in 1926 against the Boston Red Sox.
But Chicagoans aren’t the only ones who remember Lyons fondly – in Southwest Louisiana, the boy from Cajun Country is regarded as a legend and one of the finest products of the region.
“We are proud that Ted Lyons called Vinton home,” says Vinton Mayor Kenneth Stinson. “Most people that knew him are gone, but there are a few younger ones that remember him when he lived in town.”
Stinson notes that Vinton has a youth ballpark named after the Hall of Famer, and he adds that after retiring from baseball, Lyons returned home and became a fixture in the Vinton community, which embraced him until he died in 1986. Even Stinson himself cherishes the times he spent near Lyons.
“My memories include seeing him talking about baseball,” the mayor says. “As a youngster, it was amazing to know someone that had played ball with Babe Ruth. Ted had these little bat-shaped pens with his name on them that he gave people. I still have one that I treasure.”
Lyons’ Louisiana fame isn’t limited to Vinton, either. In New Orleans, longtime Times-Picayune columnist Bill Keefe wrote in 1955 about a local event at which Lyons would be the keynote speaker.
“Principal speaker will be Ted Lyons, for many years one of the Major Leagues’ most famous pitchers,” Keefe penned. “A Louisianian, Lyons has become as popular a baseball [player] as ever represented the Pelican State.”