Frank Lucchesi gets ejected, climbs light tower

So I tried to write a short obituary for Frank Lucchesi, and I failed. Though to be fair, I think it would be pretty hard for anyone to write a short obit on a colorful character whose baseball career lasted for more than 40 years. The one thing I didn’t really cover was the fact that Frank Lucchesi was an ejection king. Retrosheet helpfully counts 21 ejections in Lucchesi’s career as an MLB manager and coach, and he made sure they counted. The reasons for his ejections include, “kicked hat,” “covered HP with dirt,” “Threw hat and kicked dirt,” “kicked dirt on umpire,” “bumped umpire, threw hat.” He managed the Cubs for 25 games in 1987 and got ejected from two of them. If he had a longer career in the majors, he could have given Bobby Cox a run for his money.

Lucchesi was said to have had some pretty infamous ejections in the minors as well. I found an account of this one from The Morning News in a 1975 column by Don McDermott. I’ll let Lucchesi tell the story of how he got ejected from both games of a doubleheader as manager of the Arkansas Travelers.

“It was the first game of a doubleheader. The umpire was calling strikes up here [above the chin], so I walked out about 10 feet from the dugout and yelled, ‘Hey, get the ball down.’ Now that was in the days when you couldn’t argue balls and strikes.

“The ump yelled back ‘Hey Lou-Casey, you might as well come all the way out here, ‘cuz you’re outta the game!””

Lucchesi left the dugout, but instead of waiting in the clubhouse, he went behind the outfield fence. “I went down the right field line and watched the game through a door. I wasn’t signalling, or anything, but the other team complained and the umpire closed the door.” (That was from a 1963 recounting of the game.)

“Well, by now, I’m really bleeped off,” he said in the 1975 retelling, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually say “bleep.” “Now, I’m afraid of heights. But I’m so mad, I climb this light tower. It’s gotta be 60 feet high. I’m watching the game and the umps spot me again. All three of them come out and one of them shouts ‘Lou-Casey! You get down here!’ I yell back ‘C’mon up and get me!'”

The umpires gave him until a count of 60 to get down, and Lucchesi finally started carefully climbing down when the count hit 30. “I looked down from the tower, and I was scared bleepless.

“The other manager — it was Bob Swift, God rest his soul — played the game under protest, so when we meet at home plate before the second game, I ask him if he’s going to play that one under protest too. Anyway, he got mad and made a move toward me. I took a swing at him. The ump takes one look at me and says, ‘Frank, you’re gone again!’ I asked why. He said I took the first punch. God, what a business!”

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