Joe DeLucca’s childhood dream was to get to the major leagues.
He did, but it wasn't exactly the way he imagined. DeLucca spent 33 years working as a scout in Major League Baseball and was responsible for drafting and signing 12-time All-Star Manny Ramirez as well as several notable Long Islanders.
DeLucca lived most of his life in Babylon, where the high school baseball field is named in his honor. He also taught physical education at three local schools.
DeLucca, a member of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame, Babylon High School Wall of Fame, and SUNY-Cortland baseball Legends Club, died of cancer Feb. 24 at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, his family said. He was 90.
“He traveled around the tri-state area,” said daughter Joanne Ferris, 66, of Center Moriches. “He spent a lot of summers in New England, looking at the Pawtucket Red Sox. He would travel to [see] regional teams, high school teams, and college teams. When they heard of a person who seemed to have talent, his job was to evaluate them, write up a report, and send it in to the director of scouting.”
DeLucca worked for the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s, Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos, Seattle Pilots, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians.
On DeLucca's recommendation, the Indians drafted Ramirez, of Washington Heights in Manhattan, with the 13th overall pick in the 1991 draft.
"To get a player like that is a scout's dream," DeLucca said in a 2009 interview with Newsday.
DeLucca also signed three-time All-Star pitcher Charles Nagy. While with the Orioles, he signed Commack native and former Met Pete Harnisch, and West Islip-native and former Yankee John Habyan.
DeLucca signed Bay Shore's Rob Dromerhauser, who went on to play one year of minor league baseball and later became the Mets' bullpen catcher.
“He took a gamble with me back then,” said Dromerhauser, 56, who signed with the Orioles in the 1980s. “I was on top of the world that someone gave me a professional contract.
“I always said he was the consummate scout, on and off the field. He did his homework, learned about a makeup of a kid, what makes him tick, what kind of family did he come from, all those little things. … He had a good eye and he had the passion for baseball.”
DeLucca was born on March 22, 1929, in Queens, and grew up in North Babylon. He went to St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Babylon. He graduated from Babylon High School in 1947, where he was a catcher for the baseball team for four years, including a post-graduate season in 1948. While in high school, he also played football and basketball.
He went to SUNY-Cortland and played both baseball and soccer. After graduating in 1951, DeLucca served in the Marines from 1952-54, playing and managing their baseball team during the Korean War.
“He used to say, ‘In baseball, anything can happen,’ " Ferris said. “He found it very exciting. Anything could happen at any time and it could always change. That’s what he liked about it. He just loved the game.”
DeLucca taught physical education at Babylon High School from 1954-1957 and West Babylon High School from 1958-1966. He coached the West Babylon High School baseball team from 1958-1966 and was named Suffolk coach of the year in 1962. He finished his teaching career at West Babylon Junior High School, where he was a physical education teacher and chairman of the department from 1967-1983. He also coached football at the middle school, according to his Cleveland Indians resume.
“As important as baseball was, his family was more important to him,” said daughter Judy, 64, of Babylon. “If anyone, friend, neighbor, family, needed something, it was if he couldn’t get there fast enough to help them. That was just the way he lived his life.”
In addition to Joanne and Judy, DeLucca is survived by his wife of 67 years, Carol, daughter Janet and son-in law Michael Bartow of North Carolina, daughter Joyce of Manhattan, son Joe Jr. and daughter-in-law Linda of Lake Ronkonkoma, son James and daughter-in-law Jean of Islip, and son-in-law Martin Ferris of Center Moriches, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He will be buried at a later date, Judy said.