Tipping The Cap
Nick Tucci, like the stadium where he worked, was an institution. You may not have known his name, but if you were one of the several million baseball fans who filed into Cheney Stadium to watch games in all kinds of weather since it opened in 1960, you probably knew his face.
Tucci, who died Jan. 9 at age 92, began working for Tacoma’s Class AAA baseball franchise the first year it came to town. He started in May 1960 as an usher, helping fans find their seats in what was then a brand-new ballpark.
By 1967, Tucci had moved up to Chief Ticket Taker, and he remained in that role for decades. Through a security check by the FBI before President John F. Kennedy attended a campaign rally there in September 1963; through a concussion caused when Tucci was hit by a foul ball; through seven name changes for the Tacoma franchise; through windy, rainy, cold night games, Nick was always there.
He missed only seven days of work through the mid-1990s, according a profile written by the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bart Ripp and published in 1996. Two of those absences were after the foul ball hit his head. “I didn’t get the ball,” said Nick.
Cheney Stadium was not his only civic activity. He also worked at the Tacoma Dome, the Puyallup Fair and the Goodwill Games when they came to Puget Sound in 1990. In fact, he supervised ticket takers for the events in Tacoma.
Nick Tucci was born in Fairfax, south of Carbonado in southeast Pierce County. He didn’t play sports in high school. He was a Sea Scout. He graduated from Puyallup High in 1949.
He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.
He married his sweetheart Gloria on June 3, 1952, and they were wed for more than 69 years.
Like most of those he helped in the early years at Cheney Stadium, Nick Tucci was a sports fan.
“There were people coming out in those days who were interested in the ballgame,” he told Ripp. “They came to watch the game.”
At the stadium, he would typically carry a bag filled with souvenirs. He had ticket stubs from the PCL All-Star Game at Cheney in 1974, another from a Sugar Ray Seales boxing match in 1973, a newspaper clipping from a 1949 Western International League game between the Yakima Bears and the Tacoma Tigers.
But more than the trinkets representing memories, Nick loved the fans. And they loved him back.
“Some fans won’t go in the first-base or third-base gates (at Cheney Stadium),” Nick told TNT. “They like to come in the main gate so they can see me.”
The people were what made the job great, he said. “The people I only see once a year or two. The people I see every night. It’s always the people.”
By Arnold Lytle, formerly of The News Tribune and a contributing writer for the Tacoma Athletic Commission and the Shanaman Sports Museum of Tacoma-Pierce County.