In baseball, BYU sports and life, Glen Tuckett has left an indelible mark


Coincidentally, I was painting when I learned last week that Glen Tuckett had died.

Kerri, my wife, had this brilliant idea that my home office needed to be repainted. (After only 16 years.) We were applying green duct tape to protect the wood surfaces when I entered the closet. There are places there that only a contortionist would be able to see, and a little contortionist as well. Why bother recording in there?

Then I thought of Glen Tuckett and a story he told when he lectured.

In the story, he paints and comes to a similar place away. “Who will see if I blow it?” ” he says to him. Then he thinks of his father. His dad could look below, and even if he didn’t, he would expect the parts you couldn’t easily see to be as buttoned up as the parts you could.

So he painted the underside.

And I taped the closet.

* * *

I’m sure Glen Tuckett had no idea how much influence this story had on me. He was a baseball coach and then athletic director at BYU; I was a journalist who wrote about sports during his tenure. It wasn’t always the easiest interview back then. He did not readily put up with fools (referees or journalists) and was careful about what he said, especially if he thought you could dive into something that could be seen as negative.

But he was always fair and honest, a straightforward, down-to-earth man with a keen sense of humor on the athletic fields that were his domain. (As Gary Pullins, one of his baseball players, recounted this week, among Tuckett’s many gems was this one: “You know, Wally Joyner is the only player we’ve ever had. who was really as good as his mother said. ”)

Tuckett – “Coach” to anyone who knew him more than a little – lived the kind of life little children dream of. He remained immersed in the sport until the day of his death. After playing baseball at Murray High School, he played professional baseball for seven years in the minor leagues. If he had had what he wanted he would have played forever, but a .245 batting average eventually sent him as a coach, first to West High School and then to BYU. In 17 seasons, he won 445 games for a 0.634 winning percentage and 11 division championships, in a cold-weather school, no less, and qualified three times for the College World Series – something that no has not been accomplished once since.

As BYU’s athletic director for another 17 years, from 1976 to 1993, he presided over BYU’s Golden Age: a series of successes that included national football and golf championships, an appearance in the Elite Eight of the NCAA basketball tournament, perennial conference titles in wrestling, baseball, tennis, track and field and other sports, and a game of bowls in every year but one. No one has shone BYU athletics like Glen Tuckett.

He retired in 1993 at the age of 65, then went on a Latter-day Saint mission with his wife, Jo, followed by an 18-month career as interim athletic director at the University. of Alabama. The Crimson Tide had landed in the NCAA doghouse for recruiting infractions and Tuckett was called in to right the ship, which he did.

* * *

It was in his retirement, so called, that he influenced me the most. We’ve developed a friendship over the years, but like most people you’ve known because of your job, retirement tends to put an end to that.

But periodically, over the past 25 years, I would look at my phone and see “Glen Tuckett” on caller ID.

“This is Glen Tuckett,” he was saying, as if someone else could look like him, “I just wanted to call you up and tell you a good job on your story today. “

He would leave his message on the voicemail if I didn’t pick up, always ending with, “You don’t have to call me back.” Just keep up the good work. When I answered, we would talk for a few minutes, catching up and tackling other topics.

Every time I hung up I felt better.

Maybe it was all that positivity, but he didn’t seem to be getting old. Less than two months ago, on September 10, just three months after turning 94, he hosted a 50-year reunion for his 1971 team that went to the College World Series. Later that month, Pullins, who replaced Tuckett as BYU’s baseball coach and won a school record of 913 games in 23 years, passed by Provo and they met in a drive-through at Orem for peach milkshakes. “He was still driving at the age of 93 and I didn’t see any cars pulling aside to miss him,” Pullins said. “Always lucid and happy.”

On October 26, Tuckett watched one of Coach Mike Littlewood’s BYU baseball practices. He came home that night, turned on the television and was watching the National League Championship Series game between the Dodgers and the Braves when he suffered a stroke. Four days later he had passed third place and was heading for the big canoe in the sky.

“Everyone will miss him. He’s always been such a support, such a fan, ”said Vance Law, a former player who spent 11 years in the big leagues before returning to BYU to replace Pullins as baseball coach. Law recalled watching baseball practice many times when he coached the Cougars to see Tuckett watching from the sidelines. “I used to say to the players, ‘When he’s in the stands, there’s no one walking on this pitch. Let’s make sure we push the envelope, ”he recalled. “I hoped we did anyway, but it always made you want to do your best.”

Whether someone is watching or not.

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