I never got to see Ed Lucas.
Instead, our bond developed over the phone. It was our two voices that carried hours of conversation and years of friendship. We would mostly talk about Ed’s favorite subject, baseball.
Developing a relationship without ever laying eyes on a person was new for me. Not so much for Ed.
At the age of 12, he took a line drive off his forehead while playing ball with some friends. It was 1951 and he had just watched his favorite team, the New York Giants, knock off the Brooklyn Dodgers to capture the National League Pennant.
The game is best known for Bobby Thomson’s walk off “Shot Heard Round the World” homerun. As it turned out, it was the last game Ed ever saw. The ball that hit him between the eyes detached both his retinas, leaving him blind.
Ed went on to live another 70 years after that incident. On Wednesday, at the age of 82, he passed away. Although he spent the majority of his life without sight, he always maintained tremendous vision.
Against all odds, he got his communications degree at Seton Hall and went on to become a writer, reporter, broadcaster, and even a New Jersey Sports Hall of Famer, covering the subject he was most passionate about…the very game that robbed him of his sight, baseball.
He would often amaze others with his ability to accurately hear where the ball was hit, just by the sound it made off the bat.
Over the course of his career, he covered Joe DiMaggio, Aaron Judge, and pretty much everyone in-between. He was a beloved figure in the clubhouse and revered among players and other members of the media. When he was around the ballpark, everyone was excited to talk to Ed.
I felt the same way whenever he called me.
I picked up the phone one afternoon while working at Steiner Sports and Ed was on the line. I had never spoken to him before, but we quickly developed a strong rapport. He was looking to buy something autographed by Cal Ripken and I had just the piece for him.
What should have been a quick five minute transaction turned into an hour-long conversation. He modestly told me about his career and briefly recounted that fateful day that left him blind in the fall of 1951.
We also talked baseball, of course. I told him of my life-long affinity for the New York Yankees and he told me about the time Phil Rizzuto introduced him to his wife, Allison.
In a later conversation, he revealed that he and Allison were married, at home plate, inside an empty Yankee Stadium. They were the first, and only, couple to ever be married on the field in the old Stadium. In fact, George Steinbrenner personally granted them permission and even paid for the catering.
Inspired, I decided to ask my wife, Alyssa, to marry me under similar circumstances. I waited until the Yankees were on the road, and arranged to have access, alone, inside the House that Ruth Built. Alyssa and I got engaged that day. Ed was one of the first people I shared the good news with.
We had countless conversations through the years. He wasn’t a big memorabilia collector, so, he would often call me just to check in and say hello. After leaving Steiner Sports, I remained in contact with Ed. I regret never making plans to see him in person, but value the time I had with him on the phone. He made quite an impression on me through the years, as he did with everyone he came in contact with over the course of his remarkable 82 year life.
So much so, that many of the athletes he covered wanted to support him in any way that they could. When Ed decided to write a book about his journey, Derek Jeter personally asked to publish it under his own imprint, Jeter Publishing. Also, David Cone hosts an annual golf outing to benefit The Ed Lucas Foundation, the organization Ed started to help those with visual impairments like his.
Ed never let his lack of sight stop him from achieving his goals and he wanted to empower others to do the same.
He was an inspiration to all that knew him and a truly special person.
That was easy for anyone to see.Follow @ByJasonKlein