Dodger broadcaster Steve Lyons not singing the blues, two years after losing national gig
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Sports
Former Beaverton High star plans to attend reunion and keep his irreverent style
Steve Lyons plans to attend his Beaverton High School reunion in July. Yes, it's been 30 years since Lyons played baseball for coach Mike Bubalo's Beavers, before embarking on a career that saw him star at Oregon State and in the major leagues for nine seasons.
'Never been to one before, because I've always worked Saturdays,' says Lyons, 48, who lives in Hermosa Beach, Calif., and works as a color analyst for some of the Los Angeles Dodgers' television games. 'I'm excited. I only went to Beaverton for one year, and I'm sure there'll be a lot of, 'Who's that guy?''
Chances are folks will recognize Lyons, but maybe not the other way around. Lyons served as an analyst for Fox Broadcasting Co. for 11 years before his unceremonious departure in 2006.
It was a firing that irks Lyons to this day. He has been fighting to restore his name.
The national network parted ways with Lyons after he made what executives deemed a racially insensitive remark during an American League Championship Series broadcast alongside then-fellow analyst Lou Piniella. Lyons says the execs linked Lyons' joking about a missing wallet and a little Spanish banter with Piniella to being insensitive to Hispanics.
Lyons refuses to apologize, because 'I didn't do anything wrong. They connected the dots and made it out to be a racial statement.'
He adds: 'A lot of people in this country apologize after they get caught after doing something wrong. I'm not apologizing, I didn't do anything.'
Two years earlier, he had apologized for a joke about then-Dodger Shawn Green taking a day off and a Jewish holiday. 'It was out of ignorance,' he says, 'and I shouldn't have said that.'
Lyons works for Fox Sports Prime Ticket in Los Angeles. He does about 40 Dodger games as an analyst with play-by-play man Charley Steiner on East Coast road trips and about 80 Dodger post- and pre-game shows.
He has tried to not change his irreverent style, just watches what he says more carefully.
'Obviously, I ran into some trouble, and it cost me a job being who I am,' he says, of his style. 'At the same time, it's how I got hired.'
Lyons says he considered suing Fox, but backed off the idea. 'I didn't want to be known as the guy who sued,' he says. 'If someone deems you're not suitable for their network anymore and you turn around and sue them, who else hires you? You better win the lawsuit.'
Lyons has been entrenching himself in the Dodger family, hoping to someday be a full-time color analyst. Broadcast legend Vin Scully does TV games by himself at home and against National League West Division teams, and Scully's TV commentary is simulcast on the radio for the first three innings. Steiner and Rick Monday do the rest of the radio.
Someday, the Dodgers will have to move on without Scully, and Lyons wants to be in position to work full-time in the booth.
'The guy's amazing at 80 years old. Best there ever was,' Lyons says of Scully during a game between the Dodgers and host San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
'When Vin decides he doesn't want to do it anymore, (fans) aren't going to be happy about that or who takes over,' Lyons adds. 'The organization knows I have an interest. At the same time, it's not smart to say I wanna be the guy who takes over for Vin Scully. He writes his own ticket, does what he wants to do - and he should.'
Lyons never hurt for money while working for Fox national, but he lost about 80 percent of his income with the dismissal. He never made enough as a player or gained enough notoriety to be able to simply work a broadcasting job here and there. It's his career, and it hurt to get fired.
'It's something I'm proud of, something I'd been doing for 11 years, and it's not like I was some weekend hire who screwed up,' he says. 'I was the No. 2 guy.'
He has considered working in talk show radio. 'I've done it before and it gets old quick,' Lyons says. 'You get tired of yelling at Bob from Peoria. But you gotta do what you gotta do to pay your bills.'
And, he doesn't want to pursue working in baseball itself, because of the arduous efforts necessary in the low minors for low pay.
Lyons gets part of his major-league pension, while helping support 9-year-old daughter Alexandra. He has two older daughters, Kristen, 30, and Kori, 23 - and a grandson, Anthony, 9 (Kristen's child).
Young Alexandra and Anthony play baseball.
'(Anthony) says he wants to be a mascot,' Lyons says.
Lyons lives a few blocks from the sandy beaches. He doesn't want to work outside the L.A. area, because he wants to remain close to his children and grandson.
Lyons, nicknamed 'Psycho' during his playing days, batted .252 in 853 career games. He was drafted by Boston in the first round in 1981 and spent three stints with the Red Sox. He works at the Red Sox Fantasy Camp, and that is about the only time he still plays ball.
'I get about three at-bats,' he says. 'I can't throw from me to you. I hurt myself at the end of my career and never had it fixed. When I try to throw the ball, it really hurts.'
But Lyons remains in good shape - high metabolism, he says.
Lyons rarely comes back to Oregon. He has returned to Portland about five times, and he went to Eugene two years ago for the first time in 30 years. He prepped at Marist High before transferring to Beaverton for his senior year.
'I spoke at Beaverton's graduation a few years ago,' he says. 'Maybe the best honor of my life.'