Ron Luciano is well known to many Americans and to all baseball lovers of the past.
Born June 28, 1937 in Endicott, NY
Married to Polly Dixon, an airline flight attendant from Chicago, in 1974
Divorced in 1977
Died January 18, 1995 – suicide
In an interview with People Magazine, Ron Luciano says that he has been wearing a mask all his life, and perhaps that is why his story ended as it did.
Ron Luciano, a past major American League umpire, was known for his flamboyant and theatrical style.
Began his career as a major league umpire in 1969 until his retirement in 1980
Known for “shooting out” players.
“I started screaming my calls and leaping in the air, making an attraction out of myself. The fans loved it. Naturally, the League officials hated it.”
“From 1969 to 1979 he was rated by players one of the American League’s best arbiters and by everybody its No. 1 showboat (he shot players “out” with his index-finger pistol, waved hankies at boo-birds). Combine these traits with a keen sense of humor and the services of writer David Fisher and the result is a book of diamond anecdotes, the best-selling The Umpire Strikes Back (Bantam, $12.95).”3
Luciano was one of two AL umpires who was rated “excellent.”
“. . . . he was considered an “individualist” who played fast and loose with the league’s rules of conduct. For example, rather than working from behind second base as mandated by the American League, he would frequently stand between the pitcher and the base, National League-style. He refused to call balks, insisting that the official definition was too vague to permit consistent enforcement. “I never called a balk in my life,” he wrote. “I didn’t understand the rule.”
Luciano would routinely converse with players during between-inning breaks and even during play, a practice strictly forbidden by the League. While behind the plate, he would often chat with batters.
The New York Times obituary pages reported. . . .
he “was found yesterday in the garage of his home in Endicott, NY. . . He was 57. . . . The preliminary investigation shows no obvious signs of foul play. “1
An article by People’s Magazine goes on to say that . . . .
he “arranged his end carefully. He waited until his sister had left to visit relatives in Denver. He took his dog, Billy, to a kennel and paid the bill in advance. He asked a hunting buddy, Ricky Stefano, 27, to visit his home at 3 p.m. ‘to help him move things in the garage’ on the day he planned to die. In one of the several notes he left behind, (he) apologized to Stefano for the ruse but explained he wanted to spare his family the agony of discovering the body. In the garage, (he) had carefully laid out his will, tax forms and notes to relatives.”2
The New York Times stated . . . .
The garage was set up,” sister Dolores Jester, said yesterday. “I was carefully orchestrated.” She said her brother had left a note providing funeral instructions, but no indication of what had promoted him to end his life. She said family members and friends had no idea, either, adding that her brother had been in good health and that the autopsy had found no disease.
Key Illustrative Thoughts:
• America’s suicide rate
• wearing a mask
• no one suspected
• looking for a reason
• painful ending
• the famous and the ordinary
• the outside is different than the inside
• internal battles
• unseen battles
• we really don’t know each other very well
• the complexity of the human mind
• a world which cannot meet the needs of the heart
• gain the world – lose his soul
• who knew
• the sting of death
• our last enemy
• many other well-known have done the same thing
• many die who are not so well-known – unknown desperation
There are some clear messages that always come out of such distressing examples. One lesson is surely this: The things of the world cannot meet the needs of the human heart. No matter how much we possess, no matter how many things we own and enjoy, these things cannot give us fulfillment and satisfaction. If the accumulation of things satisfied the human heart, then the most satisfied and contented people in this world ought to be Americans. However, Americans who have acquired wealth, who have attained power and/or position are among the ranks of those who have committed suicide even in the most recent days.
It has been well said, God gave us people to love and things to use and we use people and we have fallen in love with things.
1 New York Times, January 20, 1995 B7
2 People Weekly, February 6, 1995 pgs. 99-100