The news that former Texas Rangers manager Frank Lucchesi died over the weekend at 92 wasn’t surprising. He’d been ill for a long time, and, well, he was 92. The lack of surprise didn’t diminish the sadness at seeing such a cool character pass on to whatever awaits us on the other side.
Lucchesi was an exuberant, happy, and talkative force of nature barreling through this world with the flair of P.T. Barnum and Hulk Hogan combined. His temper sometimes pushed him to odd places, such as the top of a light pole in center field, where he once climbed to protest being thrown out of a minor league game.
In the majors, umpires tossed Lucchesi out of games many times during his stints in Texas, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philly. He raised a ruckus with aplomb, kicking dirt on bases and umpires and throwing a base into the stands once.
His Italian temper was no match for his joy of life, and he remains vivid in most memories as the charismatic guy with a 100-watt smile and friendly hug.
He leaves behind his longtime wife, Cathy, and three children — Bryan, Fran, and Karen.
Last year, I profiled Karen Lucchesi, who was allegedly framed for a crime and sent to prison (“Safe at Home,” July 11, 2018). She said her false conviction and mistreatment by prison officials at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth contributed to her father’s decline in health in his final years. During her imprisonment, Karen Lucchesi cooperated as a source for a Fort Worth Weekly article written by Betty Brink (“A New Kind of Wage Slave,” Oct. 17, 2007.
Karen Lucchesi said the article prompted prison officials to transfer her to another prison in another state to prevent her family, including her father, from visiting her (“Paying the Price for Free Speech,” Dec. 5, 2007).
“That triggered my dad’s first heart attack when they shipped me away,” she told me in 2018. “My dad’s health was never the same after that. He was the most vibrant, lively person. You know how he was. My mom told me he was never the same man. His health deteriorated after that.”
Her guilt about his failed health was one of the reasons she wrote and published Innocent Woman: The Karen Lucchesi Story.
I profiled Frank Lucchesi in 2000 while working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and visited the retired manager at his Colleyville home. Lucchesi was funny, energetic, filled with stories he couldn’t wait to tell, and proud to show me a variety of mementos he kept in a room upstairs. Afterward, he took me to Karen’s hair salon to meet her. Lucchesi seemed enormously proud of all of his children.
The last time I saw Frank in 2018, he was on a feeding tube, dealing with dementia, and unable to talk but still smiling and looking through eyes that sparkled. He would have talked if he could, and he kind of did through those expressive eyes.