Lyle Olsen, PHD, was a shortstop/second baseman 15 years. He played seven years (1951, 1953-1958) in the minors and eight years (1958-1966) in independent ball and lost one year serving in the military. He graduated from high school in 1948, where he starred in baseball, basketball and football. He then attended San Francisco State University from 1948 through 1951, where he starred in three sports and received his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1951. In that same year he married Elizabeth Vanden Bosch.
Olsen was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1951, he was sent to the Ft. Worth Cats of the Texas League where he had a .290 average with 1 home runs and 23 RBI. Later in the year he joined the Newport News Dodgers in the Piedmont League and hit .306-1-19. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951 and was discharged in 1953. Back in baseball for the 1953 season, Olsen played in the Southern Association for the Mobile Bears hitting .292-2-32. He split time between St. Paul Saints (American Association) and the Mobile club in 1954. He hit .294 in the AA and .273-6-62 for Mobile.
From 1955 to 1956 he was played for St. Paul hitting .311-6-41 in his first full season with the club and .276-5 -5 in his second. The independent Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League signed Olsen in 1957. He remained with the Solons for two years, hitting .254-3-18 in 1957 and .269-2-15 in 1958. He retired from Organized Ball after 1958 at 28. In his eight years in the minors, he hit 26 homeruns and had 256 RBI, batting over .300 twice and over .290 another two years. Olsen then played and managed in the Western Canada Baseball League in the 1960s.
Olsen was a fantastic ballplayer, advancing to AAA as an infielder in the Dodgers organization; his advancement to the major leagues was likely hindered by Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese.
After his playing
Olsen served as a player-coach for the Alaska Goldpanners in the Alaska Baseball League in 1966 and was a coach for the team from 1967 to 1969 and became the team's manager in 1970.
Olsen then coached baseball in Europe and at Chico High School. Lyle was an assistant baseball coach at Columbia University (1958-1960) and at the Queens College in New York from 1960 to 1961.
He joined the staff at San Diego State University in 1965, where he was a physical education professor and the baseball head coach from 1965 to 1971. He remained in the physical education department at SDSU for 25 years. In 1973, he became the coach at the University of California-San Diego where he stayed through 1978, even though he remained a professor of English at San Diego State. He was the founder of the Sport Literature Association.
In 1989, he moved to East Tennessee State University as adjunct professor of English. He remained at the school until his death of prostate cancer in 2000. He was survived by his wife, Phyllis Anne; three sons, Erik, Nels and Leif; and four grandchildren. Before his death, he donated 1,300 items to ETSU forming the Lyle Olsen Sport Literature Collection. The Higgs/Olsen Scholarship Fund created in his honour and that of another professor, Jack Higgs.
Principal Writing and Research
Founder of the Sport Literature Association
Formed the publication, ARETE: Journal of Sports Literature, which was later renamed ATHLON
Thoughts on the professional-amateur dichotomy in which he draws on Hughes, Hemingway, Coubertin and Bert Giamatti (well before he was in fashion), exploring that issue from a non-conventional perspective.
“The Legend of Jack Trice and The Campaign for Jack Trice Stadium, 1973-1984”
To the naked eye, it seems that pitchers push off the rubber with their back foot. This apparent observation formed the basis for pitching instruction for decades. But mechanics guru Lyle Olsen, effectively disproved this long-held theory with the aid of high speed film in 1971. A pitcher's rear leg bends at an angle that remains constant until the ball is released. If there were a push, the leg would straighten or extend. The truth is that the violent rotation of the hips and trunk "pulls" the back foot off the rubber. When you try to push off the rubber, it simply causes you to rush the delivery and throw uphill.
On 10 June 10 Saskatoon Commodores scored six runs in the sixth and held on to shade the Meridians 12-11 in the second game.Bob Levingston led Saskatoon with a two-run homer and a triple.Olsen belted a three-run double and added two singles. J.B. Carroll paced the Meridians with a triple and two singles. Third baseman Tim Cullen and first baseman John Boccabella combined on a sensational fielding play to save the victory. Lloydminster had runners on first and third with two out in the ninth when Cullen made an eye-opening stop of Carroll's ground ball and, while falling, threw to first for the final out.
On 17 June, Lloydminster rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth to score a 5-4 win over the Commodores at Cairns Field in Saskatoon.Carroll, a former Commodore, belted a two-run triple to tie the game and then scored on Cliff Pemberton's sacrifice fly.Commodores out-hit the Meridians 15-7 with Olsen leading the way with three hits.John Rebelo went the distance to gain the win.He fanned eight and didn't allow a single walk.
On 18 June, Olsen, the Saskatoon playing-manager, had the key hit in the nightcap with a two-run homer in the 8th as the Commodores pulled out a 7-6 win.Levingston had a double and two singles.Curly Williams had a homer and a single for the Meridians.Boccabella had five hits on the day, adding two doubles and a single to his two homers.
On June 19, back-to-back doubles by Olsen and Ernie Fazio in the fifth inning provided the winning edge as Saskatoon beats the Eskimos 7-4 at Edmonton.It was one of three doubles for Olsen.Lyle Thionnett pitched a five-hitter for the win.
On 24 June, Saskatoon exploded for seven runs in the fourth inning and held on to beat Lloydminster 9-8.Olsen's three-run homer capped the Commodores' comeback.
On 29 June Lethbridge scored on an error in the bottom of the ninth to shade Saskatoon 8-7 for their sixth straight win.Playing-manager Olsen bobbled a routine grounder and Terry Banderas scampered home with the winning run.
On July 5, Bill Lynn of Lethbridge topped the hitters according to statistics from the Western Canada Baseball League.Statistics covered games up to and including 27 June and showed Lynn with a .412 average.Two playing-managers, Olsen of Saskatoon and Cliff Pemberton of Lloydminster were next at .408.Boccabella of Saskatoon was fourth with a .403 mark.
On 8 In the opener, a two-run homer by Bill Lynn of the Sox sent the game into extra innings.Cullen's single scored Fazio with the winner.Commodores playing-manager Olsen had a three-run homer.
On 13 July, The Western Canada Baseball League had a new batting leader, 19-year-old Jerry King of Medicine Hat Meridians.League statistics showed King with a .409 average.Lynn of Lethbridge, the previous leader, slipped to .350 and fourth place.Olsen of Saskatoon moved into second place with a .385 mark.Pemberton, the former playing-manager of Lloydminster, was third.Barboza of Edmonton was the home run leader with 12.
On 13 July, Commissioner Al Shaver announced that Saskatoon playing-manager Olsen had been fined $15 for "directing abusive language" at game officials during the 6 July game at Saskatoon.Jim Lester of Lethbridge was fined $10 for being evicted from a game after he had "threatened an umpire with a bat."
On 5 August, Dan Schneider tossed a four-hitter and struck out 16 as Saskatoon topped Lethbridge 7-3.Bob Peters had three hits for the Commodores, while Olsen banged out a triple and a single.Len Tucker, the White Sox latest acquisition, belted a double.
On 7 August, Darrell Sutherland scattered four singles as Saskatoon topped the Meridians 5-2.More than 1,200 fans watched a spectacular fielding show which featured six double plays, three by each club.Two of the Commodores twin-killings bordered on the sensational.Each time, third basemen Cullen took a ground ball on the dead run and fired to Olsen at second who made the relay to first.For Medicine Hat, veteran Curly Williams was the key figure in two double-plays.
On 8 August, back-to-back doubles by Olsen and Fazio in the bottom of the 12th inning gave Saskatoon a 5-4 win over Medicine Hat.Olsen had a trio of hits for the Commodores.Saskatoon had three double plays for the second night in a row.
On 11 August, after a shaky first inning, Dan Schneider shut down the White Sox as Saskatoon scored a 6-2 victory and handed Schneider his 8th win of the season.He fanned nine and walked none. Boccabella and Olsen each had three hits for the Commodores.
Lethbridge had finished third in the regular season, 21 1/2 games back of the incredible Saskatoon Commodores (John Boccabella, Tim Cullen, Ernie Fazio, Lyle Olsen, Dan Schneider, Darrell Sutherland et al).In the opening game of the best-of-nine final, Len Tucker (recruited for the playoffs) singled, stole second and scored the game's only run on an infield out in the 15th inning to give the Sox a 1-0 win.Boccabella's run-scoring single in the bottom of the 12th inning gave Saskatoon a 4-3 win and knotted the final and 1-1.Lester's bases-loaded bunt single in the top of the ninth scored Tucker with the winning run as Lethbridge scored a 2-1 victory at Saskatoon. After three, one-run decisions in the WCBL final series, Lethbridge took advantage of eight hits and four Saskatoon errors to plate ten runs and score a 10-2 victory.Lester knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning to give Lethbridge a 4-3 win and a 4-1 game lead in the best-of-nine final.Lethbridge White Sox claimed the Western Canada Baseball League title for the second straight season with a 4-2 win over Saskatoon before 14-hundred fans at Henderson Stadium. Lefty Dave Dowling pitched a brilliant five-hitter, striking out 18.Tucker led the Sox with a triple, double and single while Lester, the hero of Monday's game, had two hits.
On 20 September In JOHNSON CITY TN, The Sport Literature Association held a formal dedication, “Opening Day,” for the Lyle Olsen Sport Literature Collection on Friday, Sept. 27, from 6 – 8 p.m. on Borchuck Plaza outside the Charles C. Sherrod Library on the campus of East Tennessee State University. In keeping with the sport emphasis of the organization, ballpark fare will be served and guests will have an opportunity to view display cases in the library filled with samples of the more than 1,000 items of sport literature from the collection donated by the late Lyle Olsen. A scholar-athlete who played professional baseball for the Dodgers organization, Olsen coached baseball at San Diego (Calif.) State University, where he was a physical education professor and founder of the Sport Literature Association. When he came to Johnson City in 1988, he brought the SLA's journal Aethlon with him, charting its course until his death in 2000. The dedication will also assist in raising funds for the Higgs-Olsen Endowed Professorship in Sport Literature, named for Olsen and Dr. Robert “Jack” Higgs, a popular ETSU faculty member from 1967-1994. The endowment will establish a Professorship in Sport Literature and Play Theory in the department of English, support scholars in the field and allow the university to maintain the extensive collection of sport literature.
First steps taken for ETSU endowed
to honor Lyle Olsen and Jack Higgs
October 12, 2000
JOHNSON CITY – East Tennessee State University announces an endowment to honor the accomplishments of two highly regarded English department professors, the late Dr. Lyle Olsen and Dr. Robert “Jack” Higgs, a distinguished faculty member from 1967 to 1994.
The endowment, which seeks to establish a Professorship in Sport Literature and Play Theory in the Department of English, will continue the work of the two men who did so much to develop the study of sport literature at ETSU, making the university a recognized center for the subject nationally and internationally.
Olsen devoted his life to sports. A career athlete, he played professional baseball for the Dodgers organization and coached baseball both at San Diego State University and in Europe. As a physical education professor at San Diego State, he founded the Sport Literature Association and its journal, Aethlon. When Olsen moved to Johnson City in 1988 he brought the journal with him. It has been in continuous publication at ETSU for the last 12 years.
“The Greeks,” Higgs says, “believed the best society combines mind and body and attempers (joins) both to the soul, an ideal exemplified by the life of Lyle Olsen, a genuine questor after excellence.”
Higgs, admired by students and faculty alike during his years at ETSU, is a native of Lewisburg, Tenn., where he developed a love of sports. He constantly refines his knowledge of sports literature, penning three books and numerous articles on the subject, and becoming a leading authority in the field. Requests for information reach him from around the world, including the London Guardian request in 1985 that he write a feature article upon the opening of the Wimbledon competition.
Of his favorite area of study, Higgs remarks, “Sport is perhaps the oldest subject in literature, from the ancient Greeks through modern times. Over and over we learn the truth of that adage: it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”
Dr. Don Johnson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is most enthusiastic about the professorship. “It will complete the circle. We have people who are interested in the subject. Students love the classes, but since Dr. Higgs' retirement, we have no one to teach the course regularly. I'm hoping that all of Lyle's friends and all those students who have taken Jack's classes over the years and who love him will see this project as a way to show their appreciation.”
Olsen's widow, Phyllis, has assisted with establishing the endowment and has donated Olsen's extensive collection of sports literature to ETSU for use by scholars, strengthening the university's position as an international center for the subject.
The endowment will become effective as a professorship upon reaching a goal of $100,000 and be elevated to the status of “distinguished professorship” upon attaining $250,000. The professorship will help fund a position in the English department for a professor specializing in sport literature and play theory, and will also allow the university to acquire films and books, as well as provide stipends for scholars in the field.
Friends and admirers of Olsen and Higgs are invited to participate in supporting the endowment, through the Campaign for ETSU Tomorrow, by calling the ETSU Office of University Advancement at 423-439-5381, or mailing gifts to the ETSU Foundation, Box 70721, Johnson City, TN 37614.