Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sunday Sign of Hope 3/12/06

Blind Baseball Reporter Gets Married At Home Plate

from WNBC:

This home run at Yankee Stadium will be capped with a kiss.

On Friday, the hallowed Bronx ballpark was turned into a wedding chapel for baseball fan Allison Pheifle and Ed Lucas, a radio baseball reporter who was blinded as a child when a line drive hit him between the eyes.

The 67-year-old from Union, N.J., and his somewhat younger fiancee were being married at home plate on a day when the sun warmed the winter air to an unseasonable 72 degrees. They had been introduced several years ago -- by Yankee legend Phil Rizzuto.

It was a first for the stadium, where the knot has been tied in the clubhouse and in Monument Park behind the outfield fence, but never on the actual field.

Lucas is a favorite of Yankees players and staff, having covered the team for a radio syndicate for decades while brushing shoulders with greats like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ron Guidry and Bobby Thomson.

For better and worse, baseball had changed his life.

The last game Lucas actually saw was on Oct. 3, 1951, when as a 12-year-old he ran home from school in time to see Thomson hit the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" to win the National League pennant for the New York Giants. Afterward, he was pitching a game when a ball struck him between the eyes, detaching both retinas and wrecking his sight.

One day, his mother discovered that Rizzuto worked offseason at a men's clothing store in Newark, N.J., and she took her frightened, depressed son there. The great Yankee shortstop took an interest in the blind boy.

Lucas learned to write about baseball and graduated from Seton Hall University with a degree in communications. He landed a job at a New Jersey radio station and would bring a reel-to-reel tape recorder to games to interview players.

While he doesn't do play-by-play, he has a sort of inner eye for baseball and can often tell whether a ball will leave the park or be caught on the warning track.

"I can hear where the ball is being hit, just by the sound," he says.

He sits in the press box and listens to live radio broadcasts of the game, then walks to the field or locker room to talk to players and coaches. He does radio commentaries, and his notes are transcribed for newspaper and magazine articles.

Rizzuto, now 88, was on the guest list for the wedding, along with former Yankees catcher Rick Cerone and former Yankees manager Gene Michael.

The bride, a former nurse whose detached retina left her legally blind, planned to "walk down the aisle" from the Yankee dugout to home plate, where the groom would wait, flanked by his best men -- sons Eddie and Chris, who are in their 30s. He raised them alone after his wife left him.


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