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Lyons Had Been Warned

October 19, 2006|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Fired Fox baseball commentator Steve Lyons, who has won support nationwide since losing his job, acknowledged Wednesday that he signed an agreement not to say anything else the network deemed inappropriate after a 2004 incident involving then-Dodger Shawn Green.

Lyons acknowledged the agreement only after being asked whether Fox had ever given him a warning.

"It said, 'If I mess up again, they can fire me,' " Lyons said. "But it's what they deem a mess-up-able offense."

Lyons, who was fired even though his contract was due to expire at the end of the season, strongly believes that what he said last Friday during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series does not fall under that category.

In that game, commentator Lou Piniella talked about Oakland's Marco Scutaro and the unusual success he had at the plate during the division series.

Piniella compared it to finding a "wallet on Friday" and hoping it happened next week. He also spoke some Spanish. Said Lyons: "Lou is habla-ing some Espanol there, and I'm still looking for my wallet. I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit close to him now." The implication, as Fox saw it, was that Lyons was saying Piniella, because he's Hispanic, stole his wallet.

"The joke was about the wallet -- not that he was speaking Spanish," Lyons said Wednesday. "He could have been French or any nationality. The fact that I coupled the sentence together with him speaking Spanish is the reason that some people -- very few people -- were calling for my head."

His flippant style also brought him trouble two years ago with the Green incident. During that game, Lyons made light of the fact that the outfielder, who is Jewish, had chosen not to play on Yom Kippur.

"I didn't know that I would be offending anybody by trying to bring levity to a serious, serious situation, an anguishing thing for Shawn Green," Lyons said Wednesday. Lyons recalled that after that broadcast he was summoned to the office of Fox Sports Chairman David Hill.

And it was then, according to Lyons, that Hill cited an earlier incident involving a Minnesota Twins game. Lyons, seeing Doug Mientkiewicz and A.J. Pierzynski standing together, had asked on the air, "Are those their names on the back or some disease?"

No one at the network had ever mentioned that incident before, according to Lyons, who added that Hill then asked him, "How would you like it if someone were making fun of your name?"

Lyons said he replied, " 'I'd probably laugh.' I didn't think it was that big a deal."

Lyons also said he told Hill at the time, "I find it a little disheartening that I have worked for you for nine years and never had a problem. No one has ever said I'm not prepared. No one has ever said, 'Hey Steve, you said something in the fifth inning that was a little shaky. Be careful, watch yourself.' "

Lyons knows better now.

"Obviously, there has come a time now, because of this, that I have to look at what I say little more carefully," he said. "I have to look at the fact that what I find humorous may be insensitive."

The Dodgers have retained him as a part-time television commentator, but with stipulations. One of those is that he has to attend sensitivity training.

Said Lyons: "The biggest thing for me was, had the Dodgers decided to let me go, I would have been a broadcaster that was fired twice, labeled a racist without a job and no prospect of a job."

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