Heralded baseball coach Eddie
Lyons, who died Friday, helped mold young players
“That was the essence of my dad,” Beverly said. “He was a teacher, an instructor, a coach — somebody who moved a lot of young lives forward.”
After playing for 18 years in the minor leagues, Lyons shaped young ballplayers in Nova Scotia and Quebec, Kentucky and Tennessee, Philadelphia and in New Jersey, where he and his family had their “permanent” house.
Lyons died Friday in his Livingston home surrounded by family. He was 85.
“People ask me where I grew up,” Beverly said, “and I always say, ‘In the back of the station wagon on the way to some baseball game.’”
Eddie Lyons was born in Philadelphia, where he loved baseball and was even better at basketball — he held the city scoring record until Wilt Chamberlain broke it.
Out of high school, he signed a contract with the Cincinnati Reds, starting a career in the minor leagues in Tyler, Texas. At the same time, he played basketball at Temple University, with a stint away from school to serve in World War II. After graduating, he simultaneously pursued his baseball career and a professional basketball career with the Philadelphia Warriors.
In 1951, Lyons’ life as an educator began at Palmyra High in Burlington County, where he was a history and physical education teacher as well as a coach. He met his wife, Kay, at an alumni dance at the school. They married in 1952 and began hitting the road every summer for a three-month change of pace during baseball season.
“I didn’t mind packing up the house,” Kay said. “It was another adventure. We became extended families to all these people we would meet in the summers, and we sent out 250 Christmas cards every year.”
After his playing career ended, Lyons spent 16 summers coaching in the esteemed Cape Cod league, managing the Wareham Gatemen, Hyannis Mets, Falmouth Commodores and Chatham A’s. He was in the first induction class for the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame, alongside professional stars such as Thurman Munson.
At the ceremony, Lyons memorably said with a quavering voice, “This is my Cooperstown.”
While based in New Jersey during the years’ other seasons, Lyons coached high school ball at Summit and Clifford Scott in East Orange. He then moved into the college ranks at Upsala College, Montclair State, Bloomfield College and as an assistant at Seton Hall.
He was a mentor — and best friend — to Rutgers baseball coach Fred Hill, who played for him in Quebec and coached under him at Clifford Scott.
“We talked every day about coaching and being organized and how to motivate,” Hill said. “Every day I learned something new. He was outstanding. I hope I rubbed off on him because he did on me.”
Along the journey, the Lyons had three daughters, Karen, Beverly and Diana, and, Kay jokes, several thousand sons. Their first grandson, Mickey Storey — named after Mickey Mantle — is currently a pitcher in the Houston Astros organization.
“Sometimes he didn’t know what to do with us girls,” Diana said. “He couldn’t stay mad. We were always having car problems and bumping into trees and he would just shake his head. You always knew that you were loved.”
Lyons died on the last day of this year’s major league baseball season — but before the final game was played.
“It was very fitting,” Beverly said. “He never liked to watch a baseball season end.”
Lyons is survived by his wife Kay of Livingston, daughters Karen Storey of Deerfield Beach, Fla., Beverly Lyons of Phillipsburg, Diana Brazill and her husband Chris of Ridgewood, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, Nov. 19, at 5 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church at 271 W. Northfield Road in Livingston.