A Conversation With:
Broadcaster, Sportswriter Ed Lucas
By Kathi Wolfe
Many of us would be thrilled to be in the
bleachers at a World Series game, let alone to hang out with Billy Joel or
shake the presidents hand at the stadium. But this is nothing
extraordinary for Ed Lucas, 76, an Emmy-winning sports reporter and broadcaster
whos been working since 1954.
Lucas, who is blind, set a record earlier
this year when he, as a member of the press, attended his 60th opening home
game at Yankee Stadium. Lucas column, As I See It, appears in
newspapers, and his coverage of the New York Yankees has run regularly on the
YES Network and other television and radio outlets.
Lucas, who was born with impaired vision,
became completely blind when he was 12. On Oct. 3, 1951, at his home in Jersey
City, N.J., he watched the historic third and deciding playoff game between the
Brooklyn Dodgers and his favorite team, the New York Giants. The Giants
Bobby Thomson, in the ninth inning, hit the winning home run, known as
The Shot Heard Round the World. After the game, Lucas played
baseball with his friends and lost his vision when a line drive hit him between
He went to high school at the New York
Institute for the Blind. In 1962, Lucas earned a degree in communications from
Seton Hall University. His first radio show, Around the Bases with Ed
Lucas, aired on Seton Halls radio station, WSOU.
He has two sons, Edward and Christopher,
from his first marriage. Lucas first wife, whom he married in 1965, left
him and their sons in 1972. Seven years later, she sued for custody of their
children. After a tough struggle, Lucas was awarded custody of his boys in
1980. He and his second wife, Allison, live in central New Jersey.
He was inducted into the New Jersey
Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. His book, Seeing Home: The Ed
Lucas Story, co-written by Lucas and his son Christopher, is just out
from Gallery Books. (The company is the publishing imprint of Derek Jeter, the
former Yankees shortstop.) A movie based on Lucas memoir is reportedly in
Recently, Lucas chatted with Independence
Today about topics ranging from what it was like to overcome prejudice to
getting married at Yankee Stadium. Excerpts are as follows:
Q: Its great to talk with you! When did
you start reporting on baseball?
A: My mother wrote to people (in
baseball). We went to (the late) Phil Rizzuto (the Yankees announcer at the
time and a former shortstop for the club). He took me under his wing. My mother
wrote to Leo Durocher, then manager of the New York Giants. I visited him (in)
the clubhouse, and he brought all the players into his office for me to meet.
When I went on to high school, I started a club called the Diamond Dusters
because I found out that other blind people were interested in baseball, too.
Thats how I got started.
Q: Im in awe that you did
interviews in the 1950s. Things were so hard for blind people then.
I got to know some of the Yankees: Phil Rizzuto. Mickey Mantle. I wrote to
Jackie Robinson, who retired at the end of the 1956 season because he was
traded to the New York Giants. He was vice president of Chock full oNuts.
I wrote and asked if hed visit the school and said I had a club called
the Diamond Dusters. I had my own radio show at Seton Hall. After I graduated,
they allowed me to continue it because I couldnt get a job right away.
How could a blind person follow baseball? That was what I was told
by people. But I was determined. I studied insurance and went on from there.
Q: What do you say to people who insist
that blind people cant follow baseball?
A: I have guides take me
to the games. Id listen to the radio and get the play-by-play. Then
Id interview the players, either talking about something that happened in
the game, or Id learn something about them personally. Finally, I had a
job in a couple of radio stations and some newspapers. I was told, We
dont want this blind guy around here! by some famous players I
Q: Did some reporters said
nasty things to you?
A: Yes they did. Theyd say,
Whats this guy doing here, taking up space in this press box when a
sighted guy should be doing this? I got upset and went to Phil Rizzuto. I
said to him, I dont know if I can put up with the way theyre
treating me! He said to me, Dont listen to those naysayers! I
was told I was too small to play baseball. I didnt give up. And you
dont give up.
Q: Why do so many people who are blind
A: Baseball is an easier game to follow than football or
hockey. Hockey is difficult for me to follow. But baseball I grew up with. I
could visualize whats going on. I think most blind people who are
interested in sports can learn to follow baseball pretty easily.
Q: Do you think Jackie Robinson felt some
empathy with you because of some of the racial discrimination that he
A: I saw Robinson play his first (professional) game ever
-- in Jersey City! He played with the Montreal team. They came in and played
the Jersey City Giants, and he hit a home run! (Years later,) I asked him if
hed be my guest at the Diamond Dusters at the New York Institute for the
Blind. He came up and was great! He spent over an hour and a half answering
questions and talking about the problems that he had growing up in baseball.
Q: Would you talk about your custody
battle? You were one of the first parents with a disability to be granted
custody of his or her children.
A: Yes. I was the first. My (ex) wife
left me for about seven years. All of a sudden, I received a letter that my
sister read to me saying that she was suing for custody. When we went into the
courts, the judge said to me, Either give your wife your two boys to have
and raise, or I will take them and separate them in foster homes. I
didnt want my boys to go into foster homes. I said Id give them to
The lawyer that I had -- he didnt do a good job. I
fired him. My friends helped me find a lawyer who was a custody specialist. He
took the case. It went to the highest court in New Jersey, and I won custody of
my boys! I won them back!
Q: Thats an incredible story. I
loved it in the book -- the part where you wrote that you were worried about
the legal bills, but that your co-workers and friends paid all of the legal
A: Oh, yes! To this day, I dont know who they all were! My
lawyer said: Dont worry about it! All your friends -- from the
Lions Club, the Yankees, all over -- took care of the bill.
Q: Through your hard work, talent
and maybe because youre blind --youve been able to meet a lot of
famous people from Billy Joel to U.S. presidents. Whats that been like?
A: I was fortunate to meet great people! I always say that baseball
took my sight and gave me my life. I got to meet celebrities and four
presidents ... (Richard) Nixon loved baseball!
Q: What was it like when you and Allison,
who is visually impaired, got married in 2006 at home plate at Yankee Stadium?
A: The Yankees and (the late) Mr. (George) Steinbrenner (the principal
owner of the Yankees) have been wonderful to us! I made the request that we
could get married at home plate of Yankee Stadium, and he granted it. The field
looked as if it was opening day with the (foul) lines put down ... and the big
scoreboard that said, Congratulations, Allison and Ed, on your special
day! We went upstairs for a press conference where many of the historic
Yankees, like Mickey Mantle, had held press conferences. That was touching!
There were more press than there were guests -- 125 people!
Q: Theyre working on a movie of your
life. Who would you like to see play you?
A: I have no idea!
Q: You would just be happy if theres
Q: Youre still reporting? A: Yes. I
cover maybe a hundred games a year, between the Yankees and the Mets. Im
going to the All-Star Game in Cincinnati in July.
Q: Thanks so much for talking with me.
A: Thank you so much.
For information on the Edward Lucas
Foundation, go to: www.edlucasfoundation.org
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a frequent
contributor to Independence Today. Her most recent poetry collection is
The Uppity Blind Girl Poems.