Pick up Your Oar and Start Rowing
My boss, two co-workers and I stood behind the hard plastic seats. We were in the front section, on the first-base line at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets. We were so close to the infield, there was a protective net over our heads.
I was new to the New York City area and had never been to Shea Stadium. These were dream seats. My heart pounded with excitement.
We stood with our umbrellas held high. The rain beat down on everything around us. It bounced off the seats and quickly formed deep puddles on the cover protecting the field.
"Steve," I asked my boss, "How did you get such great seats?" "They came from Ed at the office. His dad is a blind sports writer and has a long- standing relationship with the Mets and Yankees."
The game was called due to rain. We left the stadium disappointed. On the long subway ride back to Jersey City, I wondered about the man behind the seats. How could a man be blind and be a sports writer?
Years have passed since that rainy night. Old friends back in Canada often ask me, "Mike, have gone to a baseball game in New York yet?"
I say to them, "I've been to a few, but let me tell you about the best seats I ever had but couldn't use."
Whenever this happens, the memory of that night comes flashing back. I wonder about the blind sports writer. What was his story? It had to be special.
I sat at my computer one night. An email popped into my in-box. I didn't recognize the return address. The subject line said, "Inspirational SI article about my dad, Ed Lucas." I was curious.
I opened the email. It was from a gentleman sending me a clip of a story written by Steve Rushin for Sports Illustrated.
It was a wonderful read about a special man. Through the article and the man who sent it to me, I learned the full story. The following is a synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Ed Lucas ran home from his school in Jersey City. It was October 3, 1951. He arrived in time to see Bobby Thomson win the pennant for his favorite team, the New York Giants.
After the game, Ed ran out to play ball with his friends. During the game, Ed was hit between the eyes by a line drive. The force of the blow detached both retinas, leaving Ed permanently blind.
Ed became depressed. His mother, Rosanna, took matters into her own hands and took Ed to a Newark, New Jersey men's store. There, she introduced him to Phil Rizzuto, a part-time employee of the store and a Yankee star. Phil befriended Ed.
Rosanna wasn't done yet. She wrote the Giants Manager, Leo Durocher, about her son. Leo asked her to bring Ed to, what was then called, the Polo Grounds.
On June 14, 1952, young Ed sat in the clubhouse with the members of the Giants. It was the beginning of a special relationship.
Ed enrolled in St. Joseph's School for the Blind in Jersey City. The nuns were demanding. Ed learned to make his bed and match his clothes.
If he whined about being blind and not being able to do what other kids could, Sister Anthony Marie was quoted saying, "Isn't that a shame? We're all in the same boat here, Ed. Pick up your oar and start rowing !"
Ed enrolled in the local university to study communication arts. He worked hard. He knew no other way. The nuns had made sure of that.
He graduated in 1962 and became a regular in the Shea and Yankee Stadium press boxes, where he interviewed the players.
Years later, a young Mets rookie, Ron Swoboda, took Ed by the hand. Together they walked the warning track around the field.
Ed traced his fingers along the outfield wall. His fingers, sensitive to reading Braille, seemed to read the history of the park. Every dent, scratch and chip he touched meant something to him.
Later that year, Ed married. He and his wife had two sons - Eddie and Chris. Sadly, at a very young age, their mother left forever. Ed had to raise his two sons alone.
With the strength he learned years ago at St. Joseph's, Ed took on the task. He taught his sons to be strong.
It was not uncommon for the two young boys to see Billy Martin in their home. "Huge stars like Mickey Mantle would tell me my dad was their hero," Chris was quoted as saying.
Years later, a friend came to Ed and told him about a nurse, Allison Pfeifle, whose detached retina left her legally blind and unable to continue her profession. He asked Ed to speak to her.
Ed and Allison talked on the phone for many years before meeting in person. They were baseball fanatics and spent their first date at Shea Stadium.
On March 10, 2006, at Yankee Stadium, Allison walked from the dugout to home plate and became Ed's new bride.
With his two sons at his side, Ed started a new life, at the place he holds so dear and with the woman who captured his heart.
Ed, now 68, was quoted saying, "Baseball took my sight, but it also gave me my life."
I sat in shock. Could it be? I mailed Chris back and told him about the seats we couldn't use that rainy night. He confirmed that his father was the man who provided those unused seats.
Chris told me later, "They are the first couple in the 80 year history of the stadium to have the honor of marrying there."
I finally knew the story. It was sure worth waiting for.
Michael T Smith
"What is your story? Pick up your oar and start rowing...find something that gives you purpose and pour yourself into it."
"Don't ask yourself, 'What does the world need?' Instead ask,'What makes me come alive?' then do that. What the world needs is people who have come alive."
Have a great day!