Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Hersh Lyons


Date and Place of Birth: July 23, 1915 Fresno, California

Died: April 8, 2008 Inglewood, California

Baseball Experience: Major League
Military Unit:
US Army Air Force

Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations

Herschel E “Hersh” Lyons was born on July 23, 1915 in Fresno, California. Following an outstanding pitching career at Occidental College, a distinguished liberal arts college in Los Angeles, Lyons signed with the St Louis Cardinals in 1937 and played for Portsmouth of the Middle-Atlantic League his rookie career.

The 5-11, right-hander was 10-7 that year and split the following season between Asheville of the Piedmont League and Columbus of the American Association. Most of 1939 was spent with Asheville where he had an outstanding 12-1 and also pitched 15 games for Rochester of the American Association. Lyons was 19-12 with Rochester in 1940 and found himself with the St Louis Cardinals at the start of the 1941 season.

His major league debut – at would turn out to be his only major league appearance – took place on April 17 at Cincinnati, pitching one and one-third innings in relief. Lyons was back at Rochester for the remainder of the season where he had a 12-11 record and 3.96 ERA.

Lyons worked at an airplane factory in Southern California during the winter of 1941-1942. He was obtained from Rochester by Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League but advised the club he would not be playing because of his war work. However, the Senators were able to convince him to play and he was 10-10 in 32 appearances with a 3.62 ERA.

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Lyons entered military service with the Army Air Force at Santa Ana Army Air Base on October 21, 1942. He quickly rose to the rank of sergeant and served with the primary flying training detachment at Ontario, California before being accepted to officer candidates' school at Miami Beach, Florida.

Achieving the rank of captain, Lyons served in North Africa and Italy with the Army Air Force, where he still found time to play baseball. On July 29, 1945, he pitched his team in Port Lyautey, Morocco to a 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Port Lyautey Navy Seahawks, defending North African champions. 

It wasn’t until June 1946 that Lyons rejoined the Sacramento Senators following military service. However, after more than three years away from the game and approaching his 31st birthday, he retired from baseball after just a handful of outings. For over 25 years, he was an elementary school principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  

During an extended retirement, he enjoyed boating, church work and keeping up with major league baseball.

Hersh Lyons passed away in Inglewood, California on April 8, 1946. He was 92.

Created May 7, 2008.


Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.