Ed Lucas, Blind Baseball Chronicler, Is Dead at 82
The New York Giants had just won the 1951 pennant on Bobby Thomson’s walk-off home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers at the Polo Grounds when 12-year-old Ed Lucas raced out of his Jersey City apartment in the late afternoon to play baseball with his friends.
Rarely asked to pitch because of his poor vision — he was legally blind — he took the mound when some of the other boys went home. He laid down his thick glasses — none of his favorite major league pitchers wore glasses, so why should he? — and uncorked a pitch with all his might.
The batter swung. The ball struck Eddie between the eyes.
“The twilight of an October afternoon on a makeshift baseball diamond as a white horsehide sphere shattered my fragile vision was the last clear thing I ever saw,” he wrote in “Seeing Home: The Ed Lucas Story: A Blind Broadcaster’s Story of Overcoming Life’s Obstacles” (2015, with his son Christopher). “The pain was overwhelming. Bright flashes obscured my sight.”
His retinas were detached, and his vision deteriorated even further. He became fully blind on a day he would always remember: Dec. 11, 1951, when Joe DiMaggio retired.
Although unable to see the diamond or the players on it, Mr. Lucas’s love of the game remained undiminished, displayed in a long career as a baseball writer for newspapers in New Jersey; as a radio broadcaster; and as a contributor to the website of the Yankees’ YES Network, for which he received a New York Emmy Award in 2009.
He died on Nov. 10 in a hospital in Livingston, N.J. He was 82 and lived in nearby Union. The cause was pulmonary fibrosis, Christopher Lucas said.
As Mr. Lucas recovered from unsuccessful surgery to reattach his retinas, his mother, Rosanna (Furey) Lucas, tried to raise Eddie’s spirits by writing letters to the Giants, Yankees and Dodgers, hoping that their players, coaches and broadcasters would offer to meet him and give him encouragement. Leo Durocher, the Giants’ manager, was among the first to respond, inviting Eddie to the Polo Grounds the next season.
And when his mother learned that Phil Rizzuto, the Yankees’ shortstop, was working in the off-season at a men’s clothing store in Newark, N.J., she and her husband, Edward Sr., took Eddie to see him (and buy a suit) in November 1951; it started a friendship that lasted until Rizzuto’s death 56 years later.
Edward Joseph Lucas Jr. was born prematurely on Jan. 3, 1939, in Jersey City, N.J.; insufficient oxygen had weakened his eyes, and he needed surgeries to deal with glaucoma and cataracts.
His father had various jobs, including waiter, dockworker and pressman for The New York Times; his mother worked as a cashier and stocker at an A. & P. supermarket.
After being blinded, Eddie attended St. Joseph’s School for the Blind in Jersey City and the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind in the Bronx (now the New York Institute for Special Education). At the institute, he formed a group of baseball fans who asked players to speak to his class; Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle were among those who accepted.
He attended Seton Hall University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1962. While a student there he hosted a show on the campus radio station, WSOU, that featured his interviews with baseball personalities.
Mr. Lucas was often asked how a blind man could cover baseball. He cited a “unique sensory experience” — the ability to sense where a ball was hit by listening to the crack of the bat.
“He would know if it was a fly ball to right field or a grounder to short,” said Harvey Zucker, a former sports editor of The Jersey Journal, who often accompanied Mr. Lucas to games.
Mr. Lucas’s work first appeared in The Hudson Dispatch in 1958 as a high school stringer. He wrote for the paper as a freelancer until the mid-1960s, then started writing a column for The Journal. His last column appeared in July. He also contributed to Yankees Magazine.
Mr. Lucas did not rely on play-by-play accounts in his writing or radio work. Instead, he focused on interviewing players, many of whom he befriended, like Mantle, Barry Bonds, Bernie Williams and Dave Righetti.
He had been disappointed when he could not get hired as a sports reporter after graduating from Seton Hall. So he took a job as an insurance salesman and later worked as public relations director at Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital in Secaucus, N.J., and as an ambassador, fund-raiser and board member of the St. Joseph’s Home.
In the 1980s, when his baseball work finally became a full-time pursuit, he had a weekly radio show on WMCA-AM that ran during the baseball season.
He married Margaret Geraghty in 1965, and they had two sons, Edward and Christopher, but she left the family in 1972, which prompted Mr. Lucas’s sister, Maureen, and her husband, Jimmy, to move in with Mr. Lucas to help him care for the boys. Mr. Lucas and his wife divorced in 1973.
In 1979, his former wife successfully sued for full custody of the children. Facing long odds as a blind man, he regained custody on appeal in Hudson County Superior Court.
“I knew I was a good father,” he told The Record of Hackensack, N.J., in 1980. “Truth prevails as far as I’m concerned.”
Mr. Lucas did most of his baseball work at Yankee Stadium, where on opening day in 1976 DiMaggio sat next to him in the press box, told him to put away the transistor radio and headset he needed to follow games, and delivered a personal play-by-play.
Thirty years later, the Yankees owner, George M. Steinbrenner, gave his approval when Mr. Lucas asked that he be allowed to marry Allison Pfeifle on the field of Yankee Stadium a month before opening day. Mr. Steinbrenner paid for a dinner reception for 350 people at the stadium.
“To paraphrase Mr. Gehrig,” Ms. Lucas said at a news conference after the ceremony, “I truly do consider ourselves the luckiest two people on the face of the earth.”
In addition to his son Christopher, Mr. Lucas is survived by his wife, his other son, Eddie, and three grandsons.
One day in 1965, Mr. Lucas was interviewing Ron Swoboda, then a rookie outfielder for the Mets, who asked him how he had lost his sight.
“When I told him about my boyhood accident,” Mr. Lucas wrote in his autobiography, “he followed by asking me if anyone had ever taken me around a major league ballpark to describe it up close. I said no. I spent the next 45 minutes walking with Ron as he helped me better visualize Shea by running my hand along the outfield wall, touching the bases, and traveling the length of the warning track.”
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