Baseball took Ed Lucas's sight, but it gave him everything else. When he was 12 years old, Lucas was struck by a ball during a sandlot game, causing him to lose his vision. His memories of the diamond before that moment have allowed him to sustain an Emmy-winning career as a broadcasterone who hasn't missed a single home opener at Yankee Stadium in the last 60 years.
"I wanted to give my bride the biggest diamond possible. I asked the Yankees to arrange a wedding at home plate."
Chris Lucas, Ed's son, grew up hearing his father's epic stories about being a part of the game. Chris internalized them as a child, then revisited them as a teen and continued to embrace them as an adult. That makes Chris, now an actor and author, the natural co-author of their new memoir Seeing Home: The Ed Lucas Story: A Blind Broadcaster's Story of Overcoming Life's Greatest Obstacles. "I wanted to share my father's story with the world since I was a kid," Chris tells Gelf.In the following interview, which was conducted over email and has been slightly edited, Chris and Ed describe how the game has changed in the last 60 years, George Steinbrenner's softer side, and what it's like to call a game without seeing it.
Gelf Magazine: For those who haven't read the book, how has Ed managed to work as a broadcaster without the benefit of his sight?
Chris Lucas: He was struck blind by a baseball in a sandlot game at 12 years old, on the day of Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the World. Since my dad could see before the accident, he can picture the ballpark in his head while listening to a game. He can also tell by the crack of the bat how far and where a ball is being hit. Play-by-play isn't possible, of course, but he has made his living as an Emmy-winning color commentator, getting access and insight to players that few enjoy thanks to his 60 years in the business.
Gelf Magazine: Have you known for a long time that you wanted to tell this story together?
Chris Lucas: I wanted to share my father's story with the world since I was a kid. I think I wrote about 500 essays in school, from kindergarten to college, on my dad's remarkable life, so I had lots of practice. The backdrop is sports, but his story is really one about perseverance, strong faith, facing challenges, and overcoming long odds, which is universal.Gelf Magazine:Who'll be playing you guys in the movie? If you could cast any actor (living or dead), who would it be?
Chris Lucas: As co-producers of the movie, we are technically not allowed to say who is the front runner for the film rolea guy who has pursued us for it, and who is close to signing on the dotted line. I've been told to say, "It's an Academy Award-nominated actor who played a big role in a Marvel movie."
If my father had his choice, fellow Hudson County guy Frank Sinatra would be the person to play him, hands down.
Gelf Magazine:How did you feel about writing one of the first books under the Jeter Publishing imprint?
Chris Lucas: It was an honor we never expected. The timing was serendipitous. We signed with Simon & Schuster just as Derek was starting his publishing company. He spoke to my father personally about coming onboard, and has been hands-on during the whole process. We couldn't have asked for a better partner.
Gelf Magazine: What was it like getting married at home plate in Yankee Stadium? How did you arrange for that?
Ed Lucas: I wanted to give my bride, Allison, the biggest diamond possible. I asked the Yankees to arrange a wedding at home plate and was told that they have never allowed a home-plate wedding. Mr. Steinbrenner was gracious enough to waive the prohibition for me, saying that I was "family" and that Yankee Stadium was my home. On March 10, 2006, Allison and I had the one and only home-plate wedding at old Yankee Stadium. George had the Stadium decked out like Opening Day, and paid for the whole affair. He was an amazing man.
Gelf Magazine: It sounds like you had a good relationship with Steinbrenner. Do you think there was a side to him that the public perception missed?
Ed Lucas: Mr. Steinbrenner himself put a prohibition on anyone in his close circles revealing his generous nature and philanthropy to the media. If you wanted to complain about him being a tyrant, or tell some similar angry story, he relished that. He worked very hard, though, to conceal his teddy-bear side from the public and the press. I was fortunate to experience his kind nature in person. I loved the guy. George had a mantra: "If you do something nice for someone and more than two people know about ityou and the other personthen you did it for the wrong reason." That's the type of guy he was, not the furious buffoon that's often portrayed.
Gelf Magazine: What's the biggest change in the game since you've been covering it?
Ed Lucas: By far the biggest change is the business-like atmosphere of the clubhouses. Gone are the free-wheeling days of cold cuts, beer, card games, and practical jokes. In their place are laptops, postgame reservations, and communication through Tweets. The guys are still great to be with, but they rarely let their guard down anymore.
Gelf Magazine: In the never-ending battle between hitting and pitching, pitchers have been in the ascendancy for the last few years. Do you think that change is likely to stick?
Ed Lucas: I doubt it. Americans love offense, and home runs draw fans. If attendance slides, baseball will find a way to tip the balance yet again.
Gelf Magazine: Who were some of your favorite players to interact with?
Ed Lucas: For some reason, I gravitated towards pitchers, and they did to me. Perhaps it's because they are often seen as quirky loners, rare physical specimens, or twice-a-week players, there's an underdog side to them, which helped us to bond. Guys like Mark Fidrych, Tug McGraw, Tommy John, Sparky Lyle, Don Sutton, Goose Gossage, Dave Righetti, Dennis Eckersley, Mariano Rivera, and Dwight Gooden became close friends. I still talk to many of them regularly.
Gelf Magazine: You haven't missed a home opener in 60 years. Back then, the Yankees shared the field with the NFL's New York Giants. Now they share it with NYCFC. What do you think of the team's new co-tenant?
Ed Lucas: I'm all for professional sports growing a bigger fan base in New York City, so it's exciting to see this new soccer team play at Yankee Stadium. People forget that it costs a lot of money to run Yankee Stadium. Going dark for months at a time or when the Yankees are on the road doesn't help pay the bills. That's why they had plenty of other events and sports at the old Stadium, and why they continue to do it today.
Gelf Magazine: How do you see the Yankees doing this season?
Ed Lucas: It's April, so I'm still full of hope. Ask me again in July, I might have a different answer. Staying free of injuries will play the biggest role in the Yankee's 2015 season. Whether or not they do will make all the difference, more so for them than almost any other team.