NEW YORK – This Yankee Stadium home run wasn’t celebrated with a high-five or a handshake. It was sealed with a kiss.
The hallowed Bronx ballpark Friday became a wedding chapel for baseball fan Allison Pheifle and Ed Lucas, a radio baseball reporter who was blinded as a child when hit between the eyes by a line drive.
The 67-year-old from Union, N.J., and his 51-year-old fiancée were wed at home plate on a day when the sun warmed the winter air to an unseasonable 72 degrees. They were introduced several years ago by Yankees Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto.
It was a first for the stadium, where the knot has been tied in the clubhouse and behind the outfield fence but never on the field. In addition to a love of baseball and each other, the couple shares one other thing: Allison, also from Union, N.J., is legally blind due to her own eye problems.
“I don’t think you have to have sight to find someone to love,” Lucas said after the ceremony before about 100 guests.
Lucas is a favorite of Yankees players and staff. He’ll mark his 51st opening day at the Stadium next month, working on his syndicated radio show. Lucas has brushed shoulders with greats such as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Ron Guidry.
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 Bobby Thomson hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” to win the National League pennant for the New York Giants. Afterward, he was pitching in a pickup game when a ball struck him between the eyes, detaching both retinas and wrecking his sight.
His mother later 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 Yankees 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 head to the games lugging a reel-to-reel tape recorder for player interviews.
While he doesn’t do play-by-play, Lucas 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.