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If it was exposure Lyons wanted, he certainly got it. Women behind the White Sox dugout waved dollar bills when he came off the field. Playgirl magazine called to discuss a photo spread. (The 30-year-old Lyons, who is married and has two daughters, ages 12 and 5, turned the offer down.) And within 24 hours of the incident, Lyons did approximately 20 radio interviews and seven live TV spots.
"We've got a pitcher, Melido Perez, who earlier this month pitched a no-hitter," Lyons says, "and I'll guarantee you he didn't do two live shots afterwards. I pull my pants down, and I do seven. Something's pretty skewed toward the zany in this game."
"Six guys have thrown no-hitters this year," White Sox pitcher Jack McDowell points out. "Only one guy's taken off his pants."
"He loves that name," says Sox manager Jeff Torborg, who refuses to use it. "That ought to tell you something."
Lyons picked it up when he was in the minor leagues. A first-round draft choice of the Red Sox in 1981, Lyons was touted as one of the future stars of the organization. He had speed (he stole a record 47 bases at Double A New Britain), some power (17 home runs at Triple A Pawtucket) and the versatility that has become his meal ticket in the majors. At New Britain, he even made three appearances as a relief pitcher, with respectable results (1-0, 2.45 ERA). But Lyons was also a little high-strung-throwing temper tantrums and heaving equipment onto the field after making outs—which is why former Red Sox catcher Marc Sullivan nicknamed him Psycho.
When he moved up to the Red Sox, in 1985, Lyons was an immediate hit with the fans. He homered twice in his first start—the only two-homer game of his career—and had a team-high 11 bunt singles that season. He stole 12 bases, regularly dived into first base, played solid centerfield and generally impressed with his hustle. On a team that had always been renowned for its churlishness, Lyons, who seemed to strut when he played, was a breath of fresh air. The fans voted him the Tenth Player Award, for being the unsung hero of the team. After the announcement, a fan from the bleachers yelled to Lyons, "Hey, Steve, how do you spell Toyota?"—that make of car being the prize that goes with the Tenth Player Award. Lyons obliged him by becoming a human semaphore between pitches, spelling T-O-Y-O-T-A with his body. When he got to the A, he leaned over as if to touch his toes and laid one arm across the front of his legs, hoping that manager John McNamara wasn't watching. The fans, having harvested a half-moon, went wild.
Lyons, too, went wild—with disturbing frequency—on the base paths. To this day some people think that is how he got the nickname Psycho. His most memorable gaffe occurred in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers in June 1986. Boston trailed Milwaukee 7-5 in the ninth inning. Lyons was at second, Marty Barrett was at first, and Wade Boggs, who was hitting .400 at the time, was the batter. "I could hear Marty trying to whisper to me from 90 feet away, 'If you can get a good jump, go!' " Lyons recalls. "A double steal would have put the tying run on second. I didn't stop to think how bad the consequences would be if I got thrown out."
Lyons went on the next pitch, and, naturally, he was thrown out at third to end the game. "It was the worst I've ever felt in baseball. When I got to the locker room, McNamara yelled at me, 'Just keep walking right into my office.' He fined me $300. I didn't play much after that, and a little over three weeks later I was traded to Chicago. In a way, I'm glad I pulled my pants down. I'd just as soon be remembered for that as for being thrown out trying to steal third base."
Since joining the White Sox, Lyons has become even more versatile. In '87 Lyons, who bats left, spent most of his time playing third base against righthanded pitchers, batting a career-high .280. But manager Jim Fregosi told him he probably wouldn't make the team the next season unless he learned to catch. So Lyons learned, and in '88 he was the White Sox's third-string catcher, making two appearances behind the plate—not counting the ceremonial first pitches that Lyons regularly volunteered to catch. He also started 102 games at third, two at second, eight in center and five in right. Asked what Lyons did best, Fregosi responded, "TV interviews."