Uncle Lukey and The Babe

Kids on the Glockenspiel tiles in CityGarden

Luke Urban was my great-uncle.  He was my mother’s father’s brother.  As this biography  relates, he was quite the sports hero.  He seemingly played every sport available, football, basketball, hockey and baseball.  After making All American at Boston, he went on to play professional sports, playing both football and baseball.  He played Major League Baseball for the Boston Braves, during two seasons in the late 1920s.  In later years he returned to his (and eventuallymy) hometown of Fall River, MA and coached the high school boys teams successfully until retirement.  There is a sports arena in Fall River, named for him still in operation to this day.

Family legend has it that Uncle Lukey had once roomed with Babe Ruth.  The story goes that Lukey, the low man on the pole, got stuck rooming with the Babe, because none of the other players wanted to room with him.  Supposedly the Babe would go out partying at night and then come back to the room late, waking up his sleeping roommate.  The other anecdote from this liaison, has Lukey recounting that the Babe was always borrowing money.  He always closed the story with, “But he would always pay you back.”

I had always assumed that they met while playing for the Boston Braves.  I imagined Lukey, as the young kid coming up for his chance at The Show.  I imagined the Babe, past his prime, just traded from the Yankees, back to Boston.  The problem with this story is that while both Lukey and the Babe did both played for the Braves, they did so in different decades.  Another problem with this view is that Lukey was only three years younger then the Babe.

I did find this reference to Lukey in the book, Fall River Dreams, that somewhat substantiates the family’s story.  It adds the news that they roomed together while playing for a minor league team and not in the major’s as I had assumed.  According to Wiki, while the Babe was on his way up, he was once sent back down from the Boston Red Soxs, to the minors to play for the Providence Grays. 

The year would have been 1914.  Lukey would have been in high school and only sixteen.  The Babe would have been nineteen.  The Babe got his nickname because he was so young looking when he started playing.  Providence is not that far from Fall River and in high school Lukey was already playing ball.  Maybe they did room for one summer.  Lukey was a catcher and at the time the Babe was a pitcher, both young, they would have made a natural pairing.  In 1948, the year of the Babe’s death, Lukey was managing the minor league team, the Fall River Indians.  The Indians regularly played the Grays as part of the New England League. 

I believe the family’s stories.  Lukey’s career was substantial enough that it did not require whole cloth embellishments.  It would be nice to have more conclusive historical evidence, but just think of the promise of this story, a sixteen year old boy rooming one summer with the eventual King of Swat.  Who wouldn’t want to be that boy?

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