Joe Tucci, 67, lost his battle to cancer over the weekend while visiting his daughter Erika upstate.
“He was a real tribute to the Throgs Neck community,” long-time friend and fellow little league board member Frank Eisele said. “He will be truly missed.”
Having served as a board member for the past 25 years, Eisele said the Revere Avenue resident’s death cast a dark shadow of sadness over the beloved stadium he left behind.
“Joe was very, very instrumental in the growth of the little league,” he commented. “He always loved the kids and believed in sportsmanship.”
Throgs Neck Little League president Bob Jonap said he remembers first meeting Tucci when he brought his son Joey to play in the youth league.
Though the elder Tucci didn’t know baseball at the time, having been a major player in the establishment of the AFC Rapid Soccer league, Jonap said, “He certainly learned baseball. He became a tremendous player.”
Having served as his right hand man for a number of years, Jonap said five men couldn’t replace the legacy Tucci left behind, and with the league’s All Star Tournament underway, he added, “I just miss him being next to me at the baseball game.”
“He was so much help to our league,” Jonap explained. “He had wonderful insight, great intelligence.”
Apparently, he also had an ability to quickly and successfully learn the sport.
“He was a hell of a baseball manager,” Jonap excitedly recalled. “He shocked me, I’ll tell ya.”
His excellent athletic skills weren’t the only thing that earned him a special spot in the community’s hearts. When he wasn’t on the field, Tucci served up the borough’s best slice at Ronnie’s Pizza on Wheels, where he’d worked for more than 30 years.
“He was an excellent chef and he always felt that quality was the most important,” Eisele said.
Not only did he enjoy making the premiere slice, “He enjoyed the preparation and the consumption of it,” he added laughing.
Eisele and Jonap were among the many numbers of people who attended a wake for Tucci at Schuyler Hill Funeral Home on Monday and Tuesday, July 14 and 15, respectively.
A funeral service was held at St. Francis de Chantal on Wednesday, July 16, at 10 a.m. The burial followed at St. Raymond’s Cemetery.
Tucci is survived by his wife Linda, daughter Erika (Sclafani), sons Joseph and Duglas and four grandchildren.