James Henry Lyons
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 6", Weight 160 lb.
He debuted as a 20-year-old for the minor St. Louis Giants of 1910. St. Louis was considered a top black team in 1911 and Jimmie hit .375, the best mark in the West, in his club's three games against other top black outfits. He briefly joined the New York Lincoln Giants and went 2 for 5 in an exhibition loss to Walter Johnson. He spent the winter with the 1912 Fe Browns, batting .288/?/.398 and stealing 15 in 32 games. He led the Cuban Winter League in triples (4) and was third in stolen bases. He slipped to .241 back in St. Louis that summer.
In 1913, the 23-year-old didn't play in St. Louis's few games against other top black squads. In 1914, the fleet-footed flyhawk hit .259 with the Brooklyn Royal Giants. He stole five bases, third in the east, and tied for second with one home run. He joined New York for another exhibition series but went 1 for 8 against Rube Marshall and Rube Marquard.
Back in St. Louis in 1915, the youngster hit .333. He switched teams again for the fall, joining the Indianapolis ABCs, and was 0 for 9 in exhibitions against Hooks Dauss and Reb Russell to fall to 3-22 against white major leaguers. He hit .318 in Indianapolis's trip to Cuba that fall.
In 1916, Jimmie hit .278 for St. Louis and played a few games for a Palm Beach, FL resort team, the Poinciana. He only hit .188 the next year for a breakaway ABCs club (also appearing briefly for both St. Louis and the All-Nations) but returned to the main team for the exhibition period, when he continued his struggles against white pitchers, going 0 for 6. He hit .265 in 1918 for Indianapolis.
Chicago: The glory years
Jimmie returned to baseball in 1920 and turned it up a notch and had a career year, hitting .399 for the Detroit Stars with 22 steals, second-best in the new Negro National League. He led in average, was second in homers (8, five behind Edgar Wesley), was tied for fourth with 16 doubles and tied for second with 7 triples. He briefly played for the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, during which time he wounded John Beckwith with his ever-sharpened spikes. He was just 1 for 16 in exhibitions against white big-leaguers to fall to a disappointing 4-for-44 in such contests.
Lyons joined the Chicago American Giants in 1921 and his speed and bunting ability fit perfectly into the Rube Foster approach. He hit .299/.371/.414 for Chicago and his 29 swipes tied Bernardo Baro for third among Negro National League clubs. What makes this all the more amazing is that Jimmie fell 25 feet down an elevator shaft in July, but returned only four days later.
In 1922, Jimmie slipped to .274/.317/.332 and his 20 steals were second to outfield mate Jelly Gardner as Chicago won its third straight pennant. He went 2 for 9 against Dickie Kerr and a semipro team in exhibition outings. In 1923, Lyons batted .270/.335/.360 with 17 stolen bases and went 0 for 3 against the Detroit Tigers.
End of the line
Jimmie jumped around in 1924, not playing significant time in the top black leagues, and wrapped up his career as a backup in Chicago a year later at age 35, then reappeared for a few games in the Negro Southern League in 1932, when he was well into his forties. That year, Lyons managed the Louisville, KY team (identified as the Red Caps, Black Caps and White Sox in the span of two sources) to a 9-11 record in the 1932 Negro Southern League.
Year-By-Year Managerial Record
|1932||Louisville Black Caps||Negro Southern League||0-8||.000||Louisville Black Caps||Replaced by Jim Brown|
- Research by Gary Ashwill and Patrick Rock
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley
- The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway
- Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo