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frank lucchesi, 1971 Topps #119, phillies

Player: Lucchesi, Frank

Card: 1971 Topps #119

Position: Manager

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It’s not what the ballclub can do for you, but what you can do for the ballclub.” (Frank Lucchesi)

New York Yankees scout Joe Devine approached a young, struggling outfielder toiling in the lower minors with the following advice: “Frank, the closest you’ll ever come to center field in Yankee Stadium is in a postcard. But I think you could make the major leagues as a manager." (SABR)

Frank Joseph Lucchesi was raised alongside two older brothers by his widowed mother, Florence (née Cirimele, the daughter of Italian immigrants), in San Francisco. He was born on April 24, 1927. His father, Luigi, immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1905 but died months after his youngest child’s birth. Raised in North Beach, the Italian section of the city, “Luke” (as he was known among his childhood friends) contributed to the family’s meager earnings by reporting to the produce markets at 5:00 each morning before school.

In 1951, Lucchesi’s first year as manager, The Sporting News took note of the novel manner in which he sought to improve the Medford (Oregon) Rogues (Far West League): “Believing his players had been letting too many good pitches go by, Lucchesi gave each player a slip of paper. They were required to read the paper whenever the count goes to two strikes against them. The note says: ‘You will never hit .300 if you take a third strike. You should swing if it is close.’ Lucchesi’s methods evidently are paying off. The Rogues recently moved from last to fourth in the six-team circuit.”

Lucchesi took over the Phillies at the beginning of the 1970 season, and when the Phils started only 26–50 in 1972. On June 27, 1970, in the bottom of the eighth inning, with the score tied at 8-8, Jim Beauchamp, starting in center field in place of injured Jose Cardenal, led off and lined a drive to deep right-center against Joe Hoerner, a former Cardinal. As the ball reached the wall at the 386-foot mark, “two fans reached out and one of them touched the ball, which fell to the ground,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The Phillies thought Beauchamp’s hit should be declared a ground-rule double because of fan interference, but second-base umpire Tony Venzon signaled a home run, giving the Cardinals a 9-8 lead.

Lucchesi ran out of the dugout to argue with Venzon and, getting nowhere, as the ump refused to ask for help, Lucchesi “kicked clouds of dirt and gestured wildly,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported. According to the Inquirer, “a wild argument continued for several minutes,” and Lucchesi was ejected. Then, Lucchesi plopped down on the second-base bag. Venzon ordered him to leave the field, but Lucchesi refused to budge. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, “Park police were ready to remove Frank off the base”, but he eventually was persuaded to move.

Lucchesi was fired on July 9 by the club's new general manager, Paul Owens, who took over as manager himself. In 1973, Lucchesi was appointed third-base coach of the Texas Rangers of the American League (AL) for 1974. The following season, on July 21, 1975, he succeeded the fired Billy Martin as manager of the 1975 Rangers and was rehired for 1976. In 1977, a violent incident in spring training with second baseman Lenny Randle marred the season.

Lucchesi was auditioning rookie Bump Wills to take over Randle's second base job. When Randle complained publicly about being benched, Lucchesi was quoted as responding: "I'm sick and tired of punks making $80,000 a year moaning and groaning about their situation." A few days later, before an exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins in Orlando, Randle and Lucchesi became embroiled in an argument. Randle struck his manager, who was still clad in street clothes, knocking Frank to the ground and causing his hospitalization for a concussion and broken jaw. Randle was suspended without pay for 30 days, fined an additional $10,000, then traded to the New York Mets.

Randle was found guilty of assault, and Lucchesi later sued him for $200,000, blaming Randle for the loss of his job. The case was settled, and in 1979–80 he returned to the Rangers as third-base coach, serving under manager Pat Corrales, whom he had managed 15 years earlier in the Phillies' farm system.

In 1987, Lucchesi was named manager of the Chicago Cubs on September 8 upon the firing of Gene Michael. He had been serving the team as an "eye in the sky" scout from the press box. The Cubs went 8–17 over the season's final month, then hired both a new general manager, Jim Frey, and a new manager, Don Zimmer, for 1988. Lucchesi, then 61, returned to the minor leagues for two final seasons, managing the Nashville Sounds, the Reds' top affiliate in the Triple-A American Association.

On June 8, 2019, Frank died at his home in Colleyville, Texas, at the age of 92.

(excerpted from SABR, RetroSimba, BR Bullpen & Wikipedia)


1972 Topps #188


Frank is part of the Born in San Fran/Oakland/Sacramento Tour – Go to the Next Stop

Frank is also part of the MLB Managers Tour – Go to the Next Stop

Frank is also part of the Philadelphia Phillies Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop

Luke is also part of the Chicago Cubs Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop

See all Frank’s baseball cards at TCDB

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