Coincidentally, I was painting when I heard the news last week that Glen Tuckett was dead.
Kerri, my wife, had this great idea that my home office needed to be painted. (After only 16 years.) We used green masking tape to protect the wooden surfaces when I went into the closet. There are places where only a contortionist would ever be able to see, and a small contortionist at that. Why bother losing in there?
Then I thought of Glen Tuckett and a story he used to tell when he gave lectures.
In the story, he paints and comes to a similar remote place. “Who’s going to see if I blow it off?” he thinks to himself. Then he thinks of his father. His father might look under there, and even if he did not, he would expect the parts you could not easily see to be as buttoned down as the parts you could.
So he painted the underside.
And I taped the closet.
* * *
I’m sure Glen Tuckett had no idea what influence the story had on me. He was baseball coach and then athletic director at BYU; I was a newspaper writer who wrote about sports during his time. He was not always the easiest interview at the time. He did not like to suffer idiots (judges or journalists) and was careful with his words, especially if he thought you might immerse yourself in something that could be considered negative.
But he was always fair and honest, a decent, no-nonsense man with a sense of humor honed on the athletic tracks that were his domain. As Gary Pullins, one of his ball players, said this week, among Tuckett’s many one-liner gems was this: “You know, Wally Joyner is the only player we’ve ever had who was really as good as his mother, he said. spring. “)
Tuckett – “Coach” for all who knew him more than a little bit – lived the life young children dream of. He played sports until the day he died. After starring in baseball at Murray High School, he played professional baseball for seven years in the minor leagues. If he had his will, he would have played forever, but a stroke average of 0.245 eventually sent him in as a coach, first at West High School, then at BYU. In 17 seasons, he won 445 games for a winning percentage of .634 and 11 division championships, at a school in cold weather, and qualified for the College World Series three times – something that has not been achieved once since.
As BYU’s athletic director for another 17 years, from 1976 to 1993, he led BYU’s golden era: a success that included national championships in football and golf, a performance in the NCAA basketball tournament’s Elite Eight, multi-year conference titles in wrestling, baseball, tennis, athletics and other sports, and a bowl game every year except one. No one has made BYU athletics shine like Glen Tuckett.
He retired in 1993 when he was 65, then went on a Latter-day Saint mission with his wife, Jo, followed by an 18-month run as interim athletic director at the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide had landed in the NCAA dog house to recruit wreckage and Tuckett was called in to fix the ship, which he did.
* * *
It was in his retirement, so-called, that he influenced me the most. We had developed a friendship over the years, but as with most people you have known because of your work, retirement tends to put an end to it.
But on a regular basis, over the last 25 years, I have looked down at my phone and seen “Glen Tuckett” on the caller ID
“This is Glen Tuckett,” he said, as if someone else could sound like him, “just wanted to call and tell you a nice job with your story today.”
He would leave the message on the answering machine if I did not pick up, and always ended with: “You do not need to call me back. Just keep up the good work. “When I answered, we talked for a few minutes, catching up and touching on other topics.
Every time I hung up, I felt better.
Maybe it was so much positive, but he did not seem to get older. Less than two months ago, on September 10, just three months from the age of 94, he hosted a 50-year reunion for his 1971 team that went to the College World Series. Later that month, Pullins, who replaced Tuckett as BYU’s baseball coach and won a school record of 913 games in 23 years, came through Provo and they met at a drive-in in Orem for peach milkshakes. “He was still driving at the age of 93, and I saw no cars moving out of the way to miss him,” Pullins said. “Still clear and happy.”
On October 26, Tuckett watched one of coach Mike Littlewood’s BYU baseball practices. He came home that night, turned on the TV and watched the National League Championship Series match between the Dodgers and Braves when he suffered a stroke. Four days later he had rounded the third and was on his way home to the great tomb in heaven.
“He’s going to be missed by everyone. He was always a supporter, a fan, said Vance Law, a former player who continued to spend 11 years in the major leagues before returning to BYU to replace Pullins as baseball coach. Law remembered that he often looked up to baseball practice when he coached the Cougars to watch Tuckett watch from the sidelines. “I would say to the players: ‘When he is in the stands, no one walks on this pitch. Let’s make sure we bother, ‘he remembered. “I hoped we did it anyway, but he always made you want to do your best.”
Whether someone saw it or not.