“The late Ron Luciano wrote a comic memoir called “The Umpire Strikes Back” in 1982. Thirty years later, and 17 years after Luciano’s suicide, it’s a lot less funny.”
The success of Umpire led to four more anecdote-filled books and some commercial gigs for Luciano, but the end of the 1980s put his brand of Wacky Sports Humor (a brand he had all but pioneered) out of vogue. Luciano returned to his hometown of Endicott, living with relatives in relative seclusion for the rest of his days. He was found in his sister’s garage, dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, in January of 1995. A note he left behind contained funeral instructions but no explanation, though some theorized he was hit hard by his mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s Disease.
After Luciano’s death, friends described him as very different from his umpiring persona, a man uncomfortable in his own skin. David Fisher, who co-authored his books, said, “He was born in the wrong body,” a football physique wrapped around a gentler soul. “He was a terrific entertainer. But it was hard for him, because Ronnie was actually very shy. He never got out of Endicott. And he should have; he needed to.”
Luciano did get out, though, if seemingly never quite far enough. But Luciano did make it, for whatever that’s worth and whatever small comfort it might have given him in the moment. Go back to your old man’s library, and you’ll probably see Umpire in the same spot where it was left 20 years. Same creases in the cover, same cracks in the spine. There are copies moldering in bathrooms across America right now, untouched, silently falling apart, begging to be noticed, still very much there.
Posted: September 12, 2012 at 05:52 AM | 1 comment(s)
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