His world is blown apart

Ex-Met Lyons lost home, memorabilia and his brother committed suicide as a result of Katrina


March 5, 2006

Monday, Aug. 29. Barry Lyons will never forget the date or the ankle-deep water flowing through his
Biloxi, Miss., home when he awoke that morning.

Hurricane Katrina had begun to lash the
Gulf Coast and ultimately would destroy his home and his memorabilia from a lifetime in baseball.

The former Mets catcher gathered his family - his wife, Marsha, 46; his daughter, Danielle, 8, and her mini- Schnauzer, Jingles; and his father, Kenneth, 79, who has Alzheimer's disease - and walked to a neighbor's house two doors away, which was on higher ground.

A day earlier, he was able to admit his disabled mother, Margaret, 78, into a hospital.

They all survived, but more than six months later, Lyons, 45, is fighting his homeowners insurance company and lamenting the loss of his memorabilia - and more so that of his older brother, who committed suicide in January.

He vividly remembers that when the water started rising in the house and the windows were being blown out by the fierce wind and rain, the family sought refuge in a carport.

There, a motorboat tied to a trailer and a canvas tarp provided protection from the elements. For the next few hours, the four of them held on and prayed.

From the carport, they could see the roof of their next-door neighbor's house get ripped off and the windows and doors of their house get blown in. Waves from
Biloxi Bay and the Biloxi River lashed this golf-course community.

When the storm finally passed, they found nine feet of water in the house and a hole in the roof. Although the structure was still intact, everything inside was destroyed, including much of his baseball memorabilia.

His 1986 World Series ring, appraised 10 years ago at $9,000, was gone. The VHS tapes with footage of the games he played - including his first base hit, his first home run and his only major-league grand slam - were destroyed.

Documenting that grand slam that led to the Mets' victory over the Giants was the back page of an issue of Newsday from
Aug. 21, 1987, with the headline "The Lyons Roars" that a friend framed for him.

It now sits in a storage shed, along with waterlogged and mud-stained scrapbooks and yearbooks that he just couldn't throw away.

Lyons, who was drafted by the Mets in 1982, was released in 1990. In the six years that followed, he bounced around the major and minor leagues.

Before the storm,
Lyons operated a baseball academy and was working on bringing a minor-league baseball team to Biloxi.

Now, said
Lyons, whose faith has helped him through the ordeal, "I miss being at home more than anything else."

Although he had a $350,000 policy with State Farm Insurance that covered the house and its contents,
Lyons said he has received only a check for $10,000. "That is going to be an ongoing debate," he said.

A spokeswoman for State Farm, which has 390,463 claims related to Hurricane Katrina, would not discuss his case but said compensation is determined case-by-case.

Lyons has received two three-month reprieves from paying his mortgage and has requested a third.

Meanwhile, for three months, the family of three has lived in a FEMA trailer on his parents' property. Once that house, which had minimal damage, is fixed, Lyons and his family will move in.

"It's been a wild ride and a world-changing event for us,"
Lyons said. "This trailer may be fun to camp in, but not to live in."

His wife, who teaches music at a Catholic high school, went back to work one week after the storm. Their daughter, whose school was not damaged, went back three weeks after the storm. His parents are in a nursing home in

After a week,
Lyons was contacted by his former Mets teammate, David Cone, who advised him to call the Baseball Assistance Team, an organization that helps members of the "baseball family" with financial, psychological or physical burdens.

Since its inception in 1986, the organization has helped people with leukemia, brain tumors and Hodgkin's disease and has granted more than $19 million in aid to 1,800 families, executive director Jim Martin said.

Two months ago,
Lyons spoke about his experience at a fundraiser for the organization at the Marriott Marquis in midtown Manhattan.

"When he spoke, the room was quiet," Martin said, adding that six people called after the dinner to make donations to
Lyons. "It was very moving."

The loss of
Lyons' 49-year-old brother, also a Biloxi resident, further complicated things. His brother, Pat, had been having problems with depression since the beginning of the summer, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina proved to be too much for him.

"I have faith,"
Lyons said, "that we will see better days ahead."

Copyright (c) 2006, Newsday, Inc.