MLB: Retiring is hard enough; even harder, depression after retirement

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 29: Dan Haren #50 of the Chicago Cubs looks on from the dugout prior to the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 29: Dan Haren #50 of the Chicago Cubs looks on from the dugout prior to the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

An ex-MLB Umpire’s Battle With Depression

MLB Umpire/raconteur Ron Luciano couldn’t. Sixteen years after retiring as a colorful umpire, Luciano committed suicide. A year earlier, he’d actually checked into a hospital for depression. He hadn’t exactly had things simple until then.

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After umpiring Luciano became a baseball commentator for NBC. He did that two years, then opened a sporting goods store in Binghamton, NY. Though two sisters helped him run the business, their employees were unscrupulous enough to force Luciano into bankruptcy that cost him his umpiring pension. He may also have been driven further into depression by his mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Luciano could and did stare down such hyper-aggravating managers as Billy Martin and Earl Weaver, but he couldn’t stare down and defeat his own illness. Nor could he bear to let anyone else see or feel his pain. “He never wanted to burden anybody,” said his co-author on four books, David Fisher.

The New York Daily News reported Luciano climbed into his Cadillac in January 1995, after running a hose from the tailpipe to the inside of the car, then closed the windows and started the engine.  The author of such bestsellers as The Umpire Strikes Back and The Fall of the Roman Umpire was a suicide at 57.

Catcher-turned-longtime baseball broadcaster Joe Garagiola believed Luciano missed baseball more than he let on and was hurting deeply because of that in part. “It doesn’t surprise me that Ronnie was very depressed,” he said after Luciano’s death. “There was a far more sensitive side of him that few people knew, and I know he was a lonely guy. Everybody thought every day was New Year’s Eve for him, but I can attest to the fact that he had a lot of August the twenty-thirds and October the fifths.”

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More people who suffer anxiety and depression have those August 23rds and October 5ths more often than the people who love them realize. On such days, even baseball isn’t a game for them.