Editor’s note: On July 30, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inducts its Class of 2022. What follows is Part V of a series detailing the achievements of the eight inductees, today featuring World Series champion Barry Lyons.
When Barry Lyons made the Major Leagues as a New York Mets catcher in 1986, naturally he felt as if he represented his beloved hometown of Biloxi and his treasured alma mater Delta State. But there were people even more dear to his heart Lyons was representing.
Says Lyons, “What brought so much joy to me was when I put on that Mets uniform was I felt like I was putting it on for the entire Lyons family, my father and my mother and my three older brothers. When I put on that New York Mets uniform, I was representing all of them.”
There’s a story behind the story there. Barry’s father, Kenny Lyons Sr., was a baseball man. He had played in high school before serving in the U.S. Navy.
Kenny Sr. never went to college. He became mail deliverer and then coached all four of his sons in youth baseball. As it turned out all four sons were standout athletes, each with professional potential.
“I was the caboose,” Barry Lyons says. “All my brothers had the ability to make the Big Leagues. Because of injuries and bad luck and whatever for my brothers, I was the one who finally made it. That meant so much to me.”
Kenny Lyons Jr., the oldest of the sons, might have been the most gifted. A football and baseball star in high school, Kenny seemed well on his way to being the next Archie Manning at Ole Miss before a shoulder separation and then a gruesome knee injury changed that.
Here’s how good Kenny Lyons Jr. was in baseball: Because he was a quarterback competing for the job as starter, he didn’t play baseball until his fourth year at Ole Miss after the injuries. And still, he hit .298 with power and was one of the Rebels’ best players.
Next behind Kenny came Tommy Lyons, a hard-throwing pitcher drafted out of high school by the Cleveland Indians. “Tommy had an incredible arm,” Barry says. “They weren’t using the radar guns back then, but I’ve seen a lot of hard throwers in my day and Tommy was right at the top.”
The Indians badly wanted Tommy Lyons, but Kenny Lyons Sr., who never went to college, insisted all his sons to have a college education. Tommy followed Kenny to Ole Miss, but injuries to his pitching arm curtailed his carer.
Pat Lyons, the third son born to Kenneth and Germaine Lyons, was another pitcher who doubled as an offensive lineman in football. He played both sports in high school and for Gulf Coast Community College, eventually earning a scholarship to Morehead State in Kentucky. A knee injury ended Pat’s athletic career.
Then came Barry, a superb football offensive lineman and baseball catcher. Barry first went to Delta State on a football scholarship, with the agreement he could also play baseball. Once Boo Ferriss, the Delta State baseball coach, saw Barry Lyons catch and hit, he offered him a full baseball scholarship. Barry, who liked football, loved baseball and adored Boo Ferriss, went the baseball route becoming one of Delta State’s all-time greats and making All-Gulf South Conference all four seasons. He helped the Statesmen to the Division II World Series as a senior. Back then, Delta State played about half its games against Division I teams and regularly defeated teams such as Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss and Alabama.
Drafted by the Mets, Barry Lyons quickly moved through the various minor league levels, making the biggest splash for the Class AA Jackson Mets at Smith-Wills Stadium, where he was one of the most productive players in the history of that franchise. He led the ’85 Jackson Mets to the Texas League championship. He hit .308, knocked in 108 runs and was named the New York Mets’ Minor League Player of the Year. Next stop: New York and Shea Stadium, and it didn’t take long.
Lyons won a job with the parent club in spring training the next spring. When the New York Mets played their last exhibition game against the Jackson Mets at Smith-Wills, Lyons caught the game, got the biggest cheers and got a hit as well. Those New York Mets went on to win the World Series, and Barry Lyons got a World Series ring, later lost to Hurricane Katrina. Making it all the more memorable for Lyons: The Mets issued him jersey No. 33, the jersey number of Ferriss, his Delta State coach and Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer.
Lyons wound up playing 10 seasons in professional baseball and played for four different Major League teams. His baseball life continued with minor league coaching and managing jobs and a several years-long quest to bring professional baseball to the Gulf Coast and his home town of Biloxi.
But Barry Lyons has endured more than his share of misfortune, including losing a house and belongings to Katrina, the death of Pat Lyons, the brother closest to him in age, his own bout with alcoholism and drug abuse, and a divorce.
Through the grace of God and his wife, the former Julie Pinson, Lyons says, he has turned his life around. He has realized his dream of helping bring professional baseball to his hometown and serves the Class AA Biloxi Shuckers as the team’s paid ambassador, representing the team in the community and “doing anything and everything I can to raise the profile of my hometown’s professional baseball team.”
For Lyons, it’s a dream come true in a life of many baseball dreams that came true.
The 2022 Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class includes Tyler, golfer/golf commentator Jim Gallagher, football great Eric Moulds, world swimming champion Maggie Bowen-Hanna, basketball coach Kermit Davis, Sr., baseball standouts Barry Lyons and David Dellucci, and football coach Willis Wright.
For MSHOF Induction Weekend event and ticket information, click here.