Book Report on "Tech’s Luck - The Story of Jim Luck" by Murray Silver (1989)

GTNavyNuke

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What I liked best about this book was that the author, Murray Silver, was not associated with Georgia Tech and largely wrote the book from an outsider’s perspective at the behest of Jim Luck's widow. This gives a very different perspective from the Georgia Tech history books I have read by Jack Wilkerson or Kim King who were writing from a GT boosterish point of view.

I expected this book to be largely about Georgia Tech baseball. It was only about a quarter baseball and the rest Jim’s life, Georgia Tech football and internal Georgia Tech Athletic Association (GTAA) politics.

Jim Luck was much more than just a baseball coach at Georgia Tech. Jim was a varsity football player under Dodd who had to leave football early to go in the Army in World War II. As an officer he was highly decorated (Silver Star, two bronze stars, the Purple Heart with three leaf clusters). His wounds prevented him from playing football when he came back to Georgia Tech after the war. He then graduated and bounced around small Georgia high school athletic programs very successfully before coming back to Georgia Tech as an assistant coach under Bobby Dodd. Throughout the book there is discussion about internal GTAA politics preventing him from rising up higher and being paid more equitably. Bobby Dodd promoted many other people, even though Jim Luck was the back bone of coaching the football scout team for over a decade and many positions were opened up by assistant coaches leaving.

Jim Luck was a disciplinarian who very much cared for the players; mostly as students first and athletics second. He was a person who shows how people can change from their childhood and become much better. As a kid in Americus Georgia, he was the leader of the Slaughterhouse Gang of kids who were hoodlums in Americus who did various things including slashing car tires. But he changed into a virtuous man and became the disciplinarian.

Jim Luck was the baseball coach who took Georgia Tech baseball from nothing more than a club level sport with one and a half scholarships to a sport that could command respect. Jim did this as the baseball coach first and later in the athletic department by supporting Jim Morris, the next baseball coach at Georgia Tech. When I first looked at Jim Luck's approximately .530 record (320-280), I didn't think he was very successful. But then I realized that he had absolutely nothing to work with.

When he took over as baseball coach, the state of Georgia Tech baseball was deplorable. The budget was so limited that he was a one-man staff, acting in various times as equipment manager, groundskeeper, launderer, father confessor and coach. Not only were there only one and a half scholarships, there were no lights, no stands and no support for the baseball team. The team consisted largely of varsity players from football or basketball coming over to help out. There was so little money for the team that they could not play a full schedule against well ranked teams because we could not afford to travel and had to have the smaller teams come to us to play. An example of limited travel was having to play five or six games on a six-day road trip with only two reliable starting pitchers.
Playing games against other teams away was difficult. As today, academics affected sports competition; back then, students had to go to classes six days a week including Saturday mornings and could only miss a couple of days a quarter. (So today’s kids need to stop whining. ) Jim said the toughest job wasn't winning games; it was winning the confidence of the boys and that the Tech family which paid them so little attention.

Jim Luck made his biggest impact on the baseball program when he was also appointed as the new Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities and Nonrevenue Sports. He also brought in Jim Morris who was a great coach (504-244-1) who got us on the winning track. What Jim Luck did was greatly build up the scholarships and the facilities for Georgia Tech baseball. This allowed Jim Morris to succeed much more than Jim Luck ever could have. Also, Homer Rice is given many accolades in the book for what he did to turn around all Georgia Tech athletics.

So at the beginning of this 2016 season, we should all think of Jim Luck for truly starting the Georgia Tech baseball program and giving it a solid foundation.
 

MWBATL

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I actually remember this years and those teams. I sat in the stands (such as they were) and watched as Mike Schisler pitched and Cam Bonifay hit for us. I enjoy just sitting on sunny spring afternoons and watching some baseball. I will never forget one afternoon and someone was beating the tar out of us....we had a few pitchers, but no depth and the score had gotten out of hand. Our players began waving white towels from the dugout as a sign of surrender and for the other team to call off the dogs. (It might have been Georgia Southern...I wish I could remember). Everyone was laughing.....it wasn't taken nearly as seriously as it is today...it really was more for fun or so it seemed.
 

Stinger90

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Absolutely great stuff Nuke. Thanks !

My knowledge of GT baseball only goes back to Morris but this is a Revelation in so many ways of Tech history for me. What a legacy Mr. Luck had and the incentive to increase student participation as well.
 

GTNavyNuke

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Funny thing this week. I was on travel to DC and go by an office with some GT stuff. Turns out to be a guy who played for Luck.

Odds of that? I'll give him my copy of the book next time I'm there.

But Luck is the guy who got our program going.
 
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