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A Miracle from Coogan's Bluff

Feb. 27, 2006
Feb. 27, 2006

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Feb. 27, 2006

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A Miracle from Coogan's Bluff

On Oct. 3, 1951,Ed Lucas raced home from school in Jersey City to see, on the family's newPhilco, Bobby Thomson win the pennant for his beloved New York Giants. The12-year-old then ran outside to celebrate on the sandlot, where he was promptlyhit between the eyes by a line drive, a blow that detached both retinas andleft him permanently blind.

This is an article from the Feb. 27, 2006 issue

Ed's mother, helikes to say, was a professional boxer. (She boxed apples and oranges at theA&P warehouse.) That winter Rosanna Lucas marched her deeply depressed sonto the American Shops, a Newark men's store, where she introduced him topart-time employee Phil Rizzuto, a Yankees star who befriended the boy.

Rosanna also wroteto Giants manager Leo Durocher about Ed, who asked her to bring her son to thePolo Grounds. "We went on June 14, 1952," Ed says. "My motherwaited outside on the centerfield porch because women weren't allowed in theclubhouse. I met Bobby Thomson and all the Giants. Almost every player broughtme a bottle of soda. I couldn't drink them all."

That fall Edenrolled at St. Joseph's School for the Blind, a boarding school in JerseyCity, where the nuns demanded that he make his bed and match his clothes. Whenhe walked the strange hallways with his arms out in front of him,Frankenstein-style, his house mother, Sister Anthony Marie, slapped his wristsdown to his sides. When he protested that he couldn't see, she said, "Isn'tthat a shame? We're all in the same boat here. Pick up your oar and startrowing."

In 1962 Edgraduated from Seton Hall with a degree in communication arts, after which he,and his tape recorder, became fixtures in the Shea and Yankee Stadium pressboxes. The players he interviewed for sundry New Jersey radio stations andnewspapers often interrupted his questions to ask their own. In 1965 Metsrookie Ron Swoboda asked Ed, "Did anyone ever describe this ballpark toyou?" Told no, Swoboda took him by the hand and led Ed on a lap around thewarning track, where they ran their hands along the outfield wall, reading itscontours as if they were written in Braille.

That same year Edmarried. Eventually he had two sons, Eddie and Chris. But when the boys werefour and two, respectively, Ed's wife, like Ed's Giants, left him forever.

He raised the boysas a blind single parent with superhuman powers. Or so it appeared to Eddie andChris, who boasted at school that their father could read with the lights out."I wanted their lives to be as normal as possible," says Ed.

For Eddie andChris it was not unusual to wake up and see Billy Martin drinking coffee attheir kitchen table. Yankee Stadium became the boys' second home. Says Chris,"Huge stars like Mickey Mantle would tell me my dad was theirhero."

Many years laterPhil Rizzuto was in his local flower shop in Union, N.J., when the florist toldhim about her niece, Allison Pfeifle, a nurse whose detached retina left herlegally blind and no longer able to work as a nurse.

Rizzuto asked Edif he'd be willing to give Allison a pep talk. Ed and Allison talked on thephone for several years before they met in person. On their first date the twobaseball nuts went to Shea Stadium, where Ed introduced Allison to one of hismanifold friends, then Dodger Darryl Strawberry.

Ed is now 67. Hisformer house mother, Sister Anthony Marie, is 88. She still calls Ed to ask howhe's doing and if he needs anything. "I know now that those nuns savedme," Ed says. "If it wasn't for them, I'd have spent my life on acorner with a cane and a cup."

On March 10 Ed andAllison will be married in a small ceremony in an ancient cathedral--they willexchange vows in Yankee Stadium, across the East River from the long-vanishedPolo Grounds. When Allison walks down the aisle, she'll walk from the Yankeedugout to home plate. Ed's best men are the boys he raised, 39-year-old Eddieand 37-year-old Chris. The guest list includes Phil Rizzuto, former Yankeescatcher Rick Cerone and former Yankees manager and G.M. Gene Michaels. "Itis so touching to me because all my dad has ever done is sacrifice for otherpeople," says Chris. "He's never once complained about his life and infact has always felt blessed to have his family and friends. I think theuniverse, in a way, is now blessing him back."

"Baseball tookmy sight," says the giddy groom-to-be. "But it also gave me mylife."

• If you have acomment for Steve Rushin, send it to rushin@siletters.com.

Ed raised his two boys on his own, a blind singleparent with "superhuman powers"--the boys boasted that their fathercould read with the lights out.

PHOTOSIMON BRUTY