Bill Lucas watched his Atlanta Braves, on TV from Pittsburgh, fetch Phil Niekro's 200th victory. Lucas put in a call to Manater Bobby Cox and left word for Niekro to go out to dinner and celebratef Lucas'treat. A little while later, baseball's highest-ranking black executive - Bill Lucas - was "clinically dead."
Lucas, 43, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and two sieges of temporary cardiac arrest early yesterday. Twelve hours later the word from Atlanta's South Fulton Hospital: "Condition very, very critical; prognosis guarded."
"There is no doubt he is fighting for his life," Brave spokeman Bob Hope said from hospital where gathered Lucas' wife Ruby, his mother and Lucas' former brother-in-law Hank Aaron - the home run king who serves as the Braves' farm director, the position from which Lucas advanced to his present title of vice president and director of player personnel; in effect, general manager.
Hope said Lucas' daughter Wayna completed a first-aid course last week at Northside High School and "used heart attack first aid on him when he collapsed. Doctors said it kept Bill alive to get him to the hospital."
Lucas spend six years as an infielder in the Brave farm system before moving into the front office, in public relations.
"Bill worked hard for what he got," the team's publicity director, Wayne Minshew, said. "He didn't want to be the top black general manager, he just wanted to be the top general manager. Color didn't enter into it for him."