Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

July 21, 2012

They don’t make them like this anymore

The University of Maryland lost one of her finest sons on Wednesday when Tom McLuckie passed away at the age of 79.

Born in Cumberland, Tom’s family moved to Michigan where he would become a three-time All-State football player and shot putter at Midland High School. He returned home to Maryland, though, where, as an offensive guard, he was a three-time letterman and started for the Terps’ 1953 national championship team. They said he played the game the way it was supposed to be played. He was no-nonsense and, most of all, he was tough. Don Decker, one of Cumberland’s many Maryland football players from the time, once said, “When Tom McLuckie hit you, you stayed hit.”

Tom played his final college football game on Christmas Day 1954 in the Blue-Gray Classic in Montgomery, Ala. One year back in the 1980s when a representative of the Kelly Springfield, the sponsor of the game at the time, invited Suter Kegg and me to fly to Montgomery to attend the game, I asked Tom if we made a mistake in not taking up the offer.

“No,” he said flatly.

“Why not?” I asked.

“The only people who should have to spend Christmas in Montgomery, Alabama are people who want to,” he said. “And even they’re not happy about it.”

Tom graduated from Maryland in 1955 after being drafted in the 13th round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Cardinals. Instead, he served and played football in the United States Army at Fort Jackson where his team won the Army Championship two years in a row.

Tom McLuckie was a man’s man, there is no other way to put it. Big, rugged, strong and handsome, I always thought he looked like Mickey Mantle. Tom worked hard and he thought everybody else should, too. He was a man of few words — a man of deeds, not words, if you will. But when those words came out, brother, they had power. As Barry Lattimer, no stranger to work ethic, told Tom’s grandson Jason Rakaczewski, “I worked for your grandfather one summer at George Construction. You know, he wasn’t always the nicest man in the world. But he got things done. Tom always got the job done.”

Maybe he wasn’t such a pussycat on the job, but Tom McLuckie was a good man always. He was happiest outdoors, particularly when he was hunting, and he loved to work with his hands, whether it was construction or gardening. And he had no equal in either.

His work ethic was such that he once left a good job because he couldn’t stand to be around so many people who wouldn’t work. Said Bill Brown, a longtime friend and co-worker of Tom’s at George, “Somebody said to me, ‘Can you believe Tom left that job?’ and I said. ‘It doesn’t surprise me in the least. I know some of those people, and the thing they work hardest at is getting out of work.’ Tom would have none of it. He just couldn’t stand that.”

When I first grew to know him Tom was one of the best pitchers in the Rocking Chair Fastpitch Softball League, and, for some reason, they called him Frosty.

“I don’t know who gave him that name or why,” said Tom’s oldest daughter Allison, who, along with her sister Sharon were known as Little Frosties, “but I have a feeling it had something to do with beer.”

He was a fun-loving man, and he loved the Terps until his final day. When Maryland played the right way and won, life was good. When Maryland didn’t play the right way, and lost? Well, not so much.

Tom cherished his association with Maryland and with Maryland football, never missing a reunion of his old teams, and holding season tickets seemingly forever.

When I visited the McLuckie home as a child, I always asked to play with Tom’s Maryland football helmet, which was leather and which he kept in pristine condition on the highest closet shelf in the house. I think his wife Betty Jean allowed me to play with it twice, but never again after I had scuffed it and it had to be quickly polished and returned before Mr. McLuckie came home from work. I think he would have been less likely to kill me if he caught me playing with one of his guns, although not really. That was just how much pride he took in that helmet, because it was a symbol of such wonderful days and the greatest time in Maryland football history, and he was such an integral part of it.

I will remember Tom as a friend, who, under what he would have you believe was a gruff exterior (okay, it could be a gruff exterior), was a softspoken gentleman who was a pushover for animals, his wife and his girls, and who had enormous pride in his grandson.

In that regard, maybe he was no different than how you would expect any husband, provider, father and grandfather to be. But it is important to remember Tom McLuckie and men like him, because sadly they are becoming few and far between. Whether it was work or in life, he demanded you get the job done. He worked harder than anybody and he expected you to as well. Tom McLuckie expected nothing less from you than having pride in your name.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

1
Text Only
Mike Burke - Sports
  • Opposition and inclusion understood

    Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.

    July 17, 2014

  • Further proof you should never bet on baseball

    Had you known in March that ...

    July 16, 2014

  • What have we learned this past month?

    Some serious soccer withdrawal is on the horizon for disciples of the Beautiful Game as the month of mania concludes Sunday with the World Cup final. Germany and Argentina, I believe?

    July 11, 2014

  • A man of the Midwest, of Cumberland, and a friend

    His obituary was neither extravagant nor trumpeting. Yet it was a fitting tribute to the man and the life he lived. It was succinct yet sincere. Like the man, it was gracious and understated, and it was filled with love and with warmth, and all of the names of his family and the things in his life that made him memorable.

    July 9, 2014

  • Reign of the entire planet is at stake

    I’ve given up my LeBron Hate. Don’t misunderstand, I have no LeBron Love or even LeBron Like. It’s more like LeBron Lethargy, although that’s probably too strong of a way to describe my indifference because, while I never root for his teams, it’s impossible to take your eyes off him when he’s playing.

    June 15, 2014

  • This German is one ugly American

    Our soccer friends are beside themselves because the World Cup began yesterday. Look to a watering hole near you for a large collection of soccer enthusiasts when the United States plays its first game (match?) Monday against Ghana.

    June 12, 2014

  • Terps look to the West, like what they see

    What a perfectly strange and wonderful weekend it was for area high school football, and we’re just a third of the way through June. Not strange in a negative way, mind you, but strange as in, boy, this doesn’t happen too often around here any more, much less twice in the same weekend.

    June 11, 2014

  • In the know are these Go-Go O’s

    They are a team that led the American League in home runs last season with 45 more than the league average. Then they add a player who currently leads the majors in homers and is on a pace to hit 58 for the season. They are third in the American League in batting average and sixth in slugging percentage. Yet they are 13th in runs scored because they believe in the double steal and try to steal home with a 53-home run hitter at the plate with two outs in extra innings. They continue to have a hitter who delivered 51 doubles last year put down sacrifice bunts, and they employ a third-base coach who is under the impression his job is to collect tolls on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge ...

    June 8, 2014

  • MIKE BURKE Ryan, we hardly knew ye ... at least at third base

    The best defensive third basemen I’ve been lucky to see play are (in no particular order after Brooks) Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Ron Santo, Graig Nettles, Adrian Beltre, Manny Machado and Ryan Zimmerman.

    June 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • WGW keeps the love home in Garrett Co.

    OAKLAND Friday, June 20 at Lodestone Golf Club in McHenry, and Saturday, June 21 at Oakland Golf Club, the third WGW Benefit Golf Tournament will take place. On the surface, the event, founded and operated by Bill Weissgerber and open to the public, is like no other because it provides two days of golf on two different courses under the same umbrella (okay, poor word choice for a golf event). But there is so much more to the WGW Benefit beneath the surface because its genesis and its purpose grips your heart, breaks your heart, warms and enriches your heart all at once.

    June 1, 2014