“I was an umpire, but beneath my chest protector beat the heart of a fan,” said Luciano. He applauded great plays, shook hands with home run hitters, and congratulated players after a good game. His on-the-field histrionics delighted the fans but were often frowned upon by players and fellow umpires. In 1975 Cleveland manager Frank Robinson levied $200 fines against Indians caught talking to Luciano during a game.
The only things that bothered Luciano were long games and making decisions. Boredom and the pressures of his profession often spawned his theatrics. He would frequently render an out call by pumping his arm several times or with a mock shooting gesture with his right hand.
Luciano’s clashes with Baltimore manager Earl Weaver were legendary. The first time the two met was in Rochester (International League), and Luciano ejected the feisty manager in four straight games. In the majors, Luciano ejected Weaver eight times. The feud between the two was so severe that the AL took Luciano off Baltimore games.
Upon his resignation, the comic ump worked as a color commentator for the NBC Game of the Week for two seasons. His three books (with David Fisher), The Umpire Strikes Back, Strike Two, and The Fall of the Roman Umpire, have all been highly successful.
A football standout at Syracuse University, the burly 6’4″ 260-lb tackle played in the 1959 Pro-College All-Star Game and briefly with the Buffalo Bills in the AFL before becoming an umpire.