Lyons never pitched in the minor leagues and never pitched in a World Series, but 21 seasons of yeoman work for the seldom-contending White Sox earned his 1955 election by the BBWAA to the Hall of Fame. He attended Baylor University with plans for a law career, but his college pitching made him a sought-after prospect. Upon graduation in 1923, he turned down an offer from the A’s to sign with Chicago for $300 a month and a $1,000 bonus. He joined the team in St. Louis on July 2 and relieved in the first ML game he ever saw, retiring the three Browns he faced.
By the next season he was a regular starter, and in 1925 he led the AL in victories (21) for a fifth-place team. He repeated as AL win leader in ’27 and won 22 in 1930. In 1925-30, he averaged nearly 19 wins a season, although the White Sox never finished in the first division. Late in 1925, in a game that Chicago uncharacteristically won 17-0, he held the Senators to no hits for 8-2/3 innings. On August 21, 1926 he no-hit the Red Sox, winning 6-0.
Then, in 1931, he injured his arm and lost his fastball. His manager, Donie Bush, pronounced his arm “dead.” But Lyons developed a knuckleball and was soon pitching effectively again. In 1936, he helped pitch the club to its first finish in the AL first division (third) since he had joined the team 14 years earlier.
His most important weapon was excellent control. Never a strikeout pitcher, he walked only 1,121 batters in 4,161 innings pitched over his career, and at one point in 1939 he hurled 42 consecutive innings without issuing a base on balls.
In 1939 White Sox Manager Jimmie Dykes began pitching him once a week, always on Sunday, to save his arm and to take advantage of Lyons’s tremendous popularity to draw large crowds. The Sunday-only pattern continued through 1942, with Lyons’s .634 winning percentage (52-30) the best for any four-year section of his career. In 1942 he led the AL in ERA (2.10) while completing all 20 of his starts and winning 14.
In the fall of ’42, the 41-year-old lifelong bachelor joined the U.S. Marines, spending part of his three-year hitch in combat. In 1946 he returned to the White Sox and pitched five more complete games, winning only one, his 260th. Thirty games into the season he replaced Dykes as White Sox manager. His managerial record through 1948 was 185-245, with the main criticism being that he was too easy-going to enforce discipline. He later coached and scouted before retiring in 1966 to help his sister JO x x manage a Louisiana rice plantation.