A Loss in the W&L Family: Joe Lyles

To: The W&L Community

From: President Ruscio

Date: Nov. 14, 2012

I am sorry to tell you that Joe Lyles, who coached and taught here for 50 years, died yesterday, Nov. 13. He had turned 83 just a couple of weeks earlier, on Oct. 28.

* See the complete obituary

Joe enjoyed a long and colorful career throughout half a century at Washington and Lee. Not only did he coach soccer and baseball for almost 20 seasons, but he also taught every required course in our physical education curriculum. Alumni across a wide range of class years will remember Joe fondly and no doubt can recite more than one of his Lyleisms. He was one of the legends.

Joe grew up in St. Louis, Mo., and received his B.S. and M.S. from Springfield College. He played not one but two professional sports: baseball with the American League’s St. Louis Browns for five years, and basketball with the St. Louis Bombers for four years. In 1952, he toured the world as a member of the United States All-Stars, playing against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Joe arrived at W&L in 1959. He served as the head baseball coach from 1959 to 1978 and head soccer coach from 1959 to 1976. He also was the assistant varsity basketball coach from 1959 to 1969. He later directed club sports and headed the football chain crew. He retired in 2009 as an associate professor of physical education.

Beyond the campus, Joe served as the chair of the Penn and South Region, the conference that preceded the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). He also worked on National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) committees for baseball, including as national chair of the newly formed Division III for five years after its formation, as national chair of the Division III All-American selection committee and as a member of the Divisions I, II and III National Baseball Rules committee. He served on NCAA committees for Divisions II and III for soccer.

Kim and I send our deepest condolences to Joe’s relatives. We will have a complete obituary on the website soon, and we will post information about services there as well.

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12 Responses to “A Loss in the W&L Family: Joe Lyles”

  1. Mel Cartwright says:

    What a great guy. A true friend to all athletes and students who ever attended W&L. I last saw him at the W&L – Randolf-Macon Football game in 2010. He looked great and was still the same affable and energetic guy I knew. We loved you Coach. You will be missed. Mel Cartwright ’70.

  2. Malcolm Wesselink says:

    Coach Lyles was a loyal, classy guy. I am happy to say I got to talk to him for a few minutes at Coach Canfield’s H of F ceremony. It had been 30 years since I’d seen him–he looked great–and he remembered me and my teammates. He’ll be missed.

  3. Maynard McCorkle says:

    So many memories of 4 years of baseball with Coach Lyles (1974-1977). Catching batting practice for him was one of my fond memories. He never had his own glove and being a lefty, he always picked up the first spare glove he could find which was usually a righty’s glove; he would stick it awkwardly onto his right hand and take just a few warm-up pitches and then start pitching away. He hated to waste any motion or energy, so, after every missed pitch he would hold that awkward, ill-fitting glove right at his right shoulder and await the throw-back from me, the catcher. He never moved his glove, so, if I was a little off-target, the ball would go sailing past and he would just look back into me and shake the glove, indicating that I needed to be more accurate with my throw-backs. He never said a word, he just stared in at me and shook the glove. Needless to say, I got very good at throwing the ball back accurately. No wasted motion or energy for the pitcher; all thanks to Coach Lyles. He will always be fondly remembered.

  4. Hon. Christopher D. Coursen says:

    Joe will be missed. I played both varsity baseball and varsity soccer for Coach Lyles, so I was blessed by hearing many, many “Lyleisms”–90% of all fly balls are hit in the air; Odds are that if you don’t get to first base, you won’t score; at a gas station, Coach was asked if he wanted to fill up the tank & he replied that it couldn’t be done because there was already 1/2 tank left; Right handers over there, left handers over here, and the rest of you come with me; first basements; etc., etc., etc.
    Most of these he learned from Yogi Berra.
    A great man and great coach. We will all miss him.

  5. Brice Gamber says:

    I played for Coach for four year from 1960 to 1964, and while we had at best some spotty records, he created great memories. He knew more about baseball than anyone I ever knew. It was just tough to get that knowledge communicated. He was also one of the most competitive people I ever knew… you took your life in your hands if you got on the handball court with him. To see him, Buck Leslie and Murph on the court was worth the price of admission. He cared and will be missed

  6. Bob Crawford says:

    He was my soccer coach for four years, and I, too, tell the funny stories – but with a great deal of fondness. I am very saddened by this loss to the W&L community.

  7. Paul Lancaster says:

    Thanks for mentioning his “Lyleisms”, Ken. We published a series of them in the Ring-tum Phi when I was editor. I also had him for a couple of phys ed courses. “Half of you go here, Half of you go over there. The rest, come with me…”

  8. Ed Mitchell says:

    I ran into Coach Lyles at the Lexington Applebees in 2008. He looked in great shape, but I could not believe he was still teaching (I had already retired). Without introduction I mentioned that I had played for in 1968. He replied “How you doing,Ed”. After 40 years. Amazing!

  9. Bryan Lewis says:

    Very saddened to hear this news. I have great memories of working with Coach Lyles during fall baseball practices. He’ll be missed.

  10. Rob McMichael says:

    My coach during the mid-70′s…totally one-of-a-kind. I have retold the stories so many times, and they always get a laugh.

  11. Jeff Southmayd says:

    I hope when Joe gets to the fork in the road in Heaven he takes it.

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