Tucker, Voice of Blue Devils, Still at the Top of His Game in 41st Campaign
Over the last four decades, Leominster has been served by -- at the very least -- five athletic directors and four football coaches, with one person holding both jobs.
Yet there has been one constant in that time, and last Friday, he started his 41st season on the mic at Doyle Field.
Dick Tucker, a 1974 Leominster High grad, has seen plenty in his years relaying information to visitors and home spectators since 1978.
And according to what he told us before his beloved Blue Devils took on Westfield Friday night -- “You expect me to remember back then?” he said, his dry sense of humor evident -- it was only supposed to be a temporary gig.
After spending a year at a radio station in Millinocket, Maine, he returned to the Plastics City in the summer of 1977, where he would serve as spotter to former public address announcer Mark Bigelow.
But Bigelow called it quits before the 1978 season began, and then-faculty advisor George Peck brought Tucker in.
“I said I’d do it for a couple of years while my brothers Jack and Dave were playing,” he said. “I’ve stayed, and now they can’t get rid of me. It was through (Peck) that I kept doing it, with his OK.”
Over these four decades, Tucker has seen many cycles of football teams come and go, and while there have been plenty of Leominster victories in that time, the one which stands out to him is LHS’ famous win over Brockton in 1988, when Armand Columbo’s Boxers were a USA Today Top 25 team and the Blue Devils gave them a little spanking.
“That was by far the best one I’ve done. Ask me specifics about certain games ... no,” he said.
Tucker calls games as close to straight down the middle as possible -- “I consider the P.A. announcer to be another reporter, not a cheerleader, not play-by-play,” he said -- but he does, of course, add certain inflections when the Blue Devils earn a first down, or score a touchdown.
And when Leominster scores, he even adds a “Woo!” at the end, much in the same way Boston Bruins P.A. announcer Jim Martin does when the B’s score a goal.
But while the job mainly dealt with getting to Doyle on a Friday night to call the games -- “The old days I’d come here to the field, rush here after work, go down and see the coach whether it was (Peter) Beaulieu, (Mike) Vaillette, or (John) Dubzinski, ‘Who’s playing today, what’s the lineup?’ And then I’d come up here and start announcing,” he said -- it has somewhat evolved in the last few years.
Now that Tucker is retired from formal employment, he does a great deal of fundraising for the Leominster Blue Devil Football Club, which give scholarships to deserving senior student-athletes. In June, Tucker gave $1,500 in scholarships to three students.
June 2019 will be the fifth year he has done it, thanks to donations from city businesses who he promotes in-game.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do it,” he said, noting he may increase that total at some point. “It’s not cheap to go to college. I know the parents and the kids appreciate it.”
In addition to that, he does a “Blue Devil Report” on his internet radio station, TUCKA56RADIO, where he interviews LHS head coach Dave Palazzi and a player every week during the football season.
“I spend more time getting to know the kids on more of a personal level, and have more knowledge about what’s going on,” he said. “I have a little fun with (the Blue Devil Report), interviewing the kids. You know, they’re what it’s all about: getting their perspective on things, and it’s been fun. I had Zach Khalladay on this past week.”
He also tweets on the @LBDFC Twitter account, the unofficial Leominster football team account, giving in-game updates when he can -- he’s also running music and sound effects over the public address system.
He has also expanded his duties to include freshman and junior varsity games, along with Leominster’s AYF games, semi-pro games, and he does other sports when asked. He has done baseball the last two seasons, too -- truly, Tucker is the Voice of Doyle Field, and the Voice of the Blue Devils.
He has also been known to be a little bit of a rabble rouser from his perch, especially toward certain visiting teams.
“That’s the odd thing: Name any fields where the P.A. announcer is on the visitor’s side, and I’ll give you $100 -- besides Doyle Field,” he said. “There aren’t any. But I’m used to it by now. I have fun now with Fitchburg fans, for instance: there’s no antagonism any more.”
Even so, he is a part of the fabric of Leominster athletics, and will be forevermore -- after all, they can’t get rid of him.
* On a personal note, I’ve known Mr. Tucker since 1992, and he’s always been a class act. He tweeted condolences toward Fitchburg High a couple of weeks ago after Fred Sullivan passed -- I had texted him to let him know his FHS counterpart had died -- and he said that he was planning on asking for a moment of silence on Thanksgiving morning for Mr. Sullivan.
A touching gesture toward the Red and Gray faithful.
* One of the things I admired about Leominster Friday night: the intensity the Blue Devils brought defensively, especially in that first quarter.
LHS seriously had Westfield flummoxed. On the Bombers’ first play from scrimmage, quarterback Michael Nihill had to call a timeout, as the Blue Devils were aligned differently than what he had seen in scout. Leominster had five up on the line, more in a 5-2 set-up. When Nihill finally snapped the ball, the Devils swarmed him for an 11-yard loss and a big sack. The second snap saw Dakotah Moynihan stopped for no gain.
Leominster would then grind Westfield down the rest of the quarter, yielding only one first down on a third-down conversion.
In the first, LHS gave up only 50 yards of offense, with 35 coming in one fell swoop.
Two run plays for 0 or less, along with five others for minimal gains. Solid, solid D by the Devils.
But that changed a little in the second half, where Westfield started eating clock with the run game -- the scoring drive that made it 28-21 Leominster saw the Bombers hold the ball for 4:40; the game-winning drive took 2:16 off the clock.
Westfield also converted on three fourth-down plays to keep its hopes alive.
We’re giddy for the Lunenburg football team with its second straight win on Friday night; Oakmont back on the winning side of things; holy moly St. Bernard’s; huge win for Ayer Shirley; and just on the fringe, helloooooooo, Murdock!
* After 16 years as a varsity assistant and head boys’ basketball coach at Fitchburg High, Jack Scott said last week that he has stepped down from that position.
Scott said he “felt like it was the right time” to step away from the program, and acknowledged that the next coach will have some solid returning players as well as exciting up-and-comers this winter. Scott’s departure means that we will have three new bench bosses in area basketball: Scott’s replacement, the new North Middlesex girls’ basketball coach, as well as new Leominster girls’ basketball coach Rusty Frederick.
Scott will remain the girls’ cross country coach at FHS.
* You will recall back in March that we wrote about former Leominster High and Fitchburg State quarterback Garrett DelleChiaie heading to Germany to play second-division German grid football with the Ravensburg Razorbacks.
You will also recall that good ol’ No. 12 had just one goal: get Ravensburg promoted from GFL2 to GFL1.
That goal is nearly achieved: Last Tuesday, the Razorbacks knocked off the Saarland Hurricanes -- which had been relegated from GFL1 in 2017 -- by a whopping 70-42 score for the GFL2 title, and now must play the GFL1 last-place team, the Stuttgart Scorpions on Sept. 22 and Oct. 7 to see if DelleChiaie’s goal is realized.
The reason for two games is much akin to European soccer’s two-legged tie system: the two teams play home and away, with an aggregate, combined score the deciding factor. For example, if Stuttgart wins 40-38 in the first game, the Razorbacks can win the second game 41-38 and be promoted, 79-78.
So far, Ravensburg is 11-2-1, and DelleChiaie’s numbers are just astounding: 261-of-384 passing (68 percent completions), 4,488 yards passing, a league-high 58 touchdowns passes (which is tops in both GFL1 and GFL2), with nine picks.
He’s also rushed for 400 yards with five TDs.
* We also want to send a shout-out to Ayer Shirley sophomore swimmer Sam Folger of Shirley, who was recently named to the USA Swimming’s Scholastic All-America team. We’re told than less than one percent of all registered swimmers in the country receive this honor.
* Massive opening victory for the Lunenburg girls’ cross country team on Thursday, knocking off Murdock 15-40. The Blue Knights had the top five places in the meet, with Lauren Wong coming across first in 22:16.