By Dan Schlossberg
Willie Mays was afraid of his seeing-eye dog. Reggie Jackson told him home plate was not on the dinner table. Barry Bonds, surly to everyone else, went out of his way to be nice to him.
Ed Lucas, who passed away this week at age 82 at his Union, NJ home, was one of a kind.
After losing his vision in a baseball accident at age 12, he determined that his blindness would be a nuisance rather than handicap. He became the first sightless graduate of Seton Hall University and later the first father to win custody of children from a sighted wife. His sons, Eddie and Chris, turned into fine young men, as did his grandsons.
Readers of this newsletter in the New York area should know his name; the late Phil Rizzuto, a personal friend, used to talk about Ed Lucas during Yankee broadcasts.
It was no accident that Lucas attended 63 consecutive Opening Day games at Yankee Stadium, accompanied by a sighted escort.
Nor was it an accident that Lucas befriended George Steinbrenner to such an extent that he became the only person ever married at home plate in Yankee Stadium.
The reception was held at the Yankee Stadium Club and paid for by Steinbrenner himself — an exceptionally generous wedding gift to Ed and Allison.
Ed had many gifts to give the world. He was kind, funny, and sensitive while also being informed and opinionated. And he made friends easily — especially with celebrities. The list of people he met is too long to list here but there are picture of President Bill Clinton with his arm around him and Reggie Jackson teaching him how to hit — and taking him into the Yankee Stadium outfield to let him feel the wall.
Broadcasters around the majors invariably start their broadcasts by describing the uniforms of the visiting teams. Blind listeners can thank Ed Lucas for that.
And sighted fans in San Francisco can thank Lucas for throwing a perfect strike to Terry Kennedy, then the catcher for the Giants, after former owner Bob Lurie invited Ed, a lifelong Giants fan, to throw out the first pitch before a game. Kennedy said, “Throw it here” and the left-handed Lucas threw toward the sound of his voice.
A friend of Bobby Bonds, Ed met Barry as a youngster who accompanied his famous father to the ballpark. That friendship continued as Barry became a superstar. There was hardly anybody that Ed didn’t like, or who didn’t like him.
The Ed Lucas Foundation, which raises funds for blind people who also have an additional handicap, will carry on his legacy. Every year, it has an annual golf tournament, memorabilia auction, and dinner at the Brook Lake Country Club in Florham Park, NJ. David Cone has lent his name to the event in recent years, following Gene Michael and Rizzuto.
There’s already an Ed Lucas book, called Seeing Home, and a movie is due next October. The guy made quite an impression on everyone who knew him — and many who only heard his name.
I’m lucky I got to be a close friend since we met 50 years ago. Thanks, Ed, for a most memorable half-century.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Ball Nine, Latino Sports, and others. Contact him by e.mail at email@example.com.