Larry Lucchino, CEO of three MLB teams, dies at 78 | Top Vip News


Larry Lucchino, who as a top executive with the Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres oversaw the design of modern stadiums that evoke their surroundings (Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and Petco Park in San Diego) and who as president of the Sox Rojas of Boston helped preserve Fenway Park for generations, died Tuesday at his home in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was 78 years old.

His family announced the death but gave no cause. He had been treated three times for cancer.

Lucchino became president of the Red Sox in 2002 with the rise of new owners, led by John Henry, the Red Sox’s principal owner, and Tom Werner. In Lucchino’s 14 years with the team, the Red Sox won three World Series titles (the first of which, in 2004, broke an 86-year drought) and reached the postseason seven times. He oversaw improvements to Fenway Park that included installing seating on the Green Monster, the 37-foot-high left field wall, expanding crowded concourses and creating new concession areas.

Instead of replacing it with a new stadium, Lucchino envisioned a renovation that would keep Fenway, which opened in 1912, viable for decades.

“Haven’t you learned anything?” Lucchino told Charles Steinberg, another Red Sox executive, as quoted in a profile in The Sports Business Journal in 2021. “You cannot destroy the Mona Lisa. You keep the Mona Lisa.”

Mr. Lucchino’s combative and competitive personality influenced the rivalry between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees. In 2002, after the Yankees signed Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui and Cuban pitcher José Contreras within days, Lucchino told the New York Times: “The evil empire extends its tentacles even to Latin America.”

The nickname stuck, even as Boston’s success in subsequent years surpassed that of the Yankees. A year later, Lucchino described the Yankees-Red Sox dynamic in more detail:

“It’s red hot,” he told The Times. “It’s a rivalry on the field, it’s a rivalry in the press, it’s a rivalry in the board, it’s a rivalry between the fans.”

The feeling was mutual.

Interviewed by The New York Times in 2007, Hank Steinbrenner, son of the Yankees’ principal owner at the time, George Steinbrenner, said of the Red Sox: “If it weren’t for the rivalry with us, they would be just another team.”

Lawrence Lucchino was born on September 6, 1945 in Pittsburgh. His father, Dominic, owned a bar and later worked for the Pennsylvania court system. His mother, Rose (Rizzo) Lucchino, was a secretary and accountant.

Lucchino played second base on his high school baseball team, which won a Pittsburgh city championship. At Princeton, he was a guard on the basketball team, whose star was Bill Bradley, that reached the Final Four of the 1965 NCAA men’s tournament before losing in the semifinals to the University of Michigan. Mr. Lucchino earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton in 1967.

He graduated from Yale Law School in 1971 and two years later joined the House Judiciary Committee as a staff attorney, where he worked on President Richard M. Nixon’s Watergate impeachment investigation. One of his colleagues was Hillary Clinton.

In 1974, Mr. Lucchino was hired by the powerful Washington law firm of Williams and Connolly. Over the next 14 years, he became a partner in the firm and an executive with the Orioles and the Washington Redskins (now the Commanders) because Edward Bennett Williams, the celebrated trial lawyer who ran the firm, owned interests in both teams.

“My career in baseball is a result of him, the opportunity he gave me and the faith he had in me,” Lucchino told the Boston Globe in 2002.

After Williams’ death in 1988, Lucchino officially became president of the Orioles. In that role, he oversaw the development of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992 with a brick and steel aesthetic and asymmetrical field dimensions reminiscent of early 20th century stadiums such as Forbes Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, which I had gone to. like a child. The former B&O Railroad depot became a unique backdrop beyond right field.

Camden Yards is credited with inspiring other MLB teams to build idiosyncratic stadiums, often in downtown settings.

Mr. Lucchino worked on the Camden Yards, Petco and Fenway projects with Janet Marie Smith, who served as an executive for the Orioles and Red Sox and a consultant for the Padres. She described Mr. Lucchino as a determined personality who cajoled architects and others to create the best results.

“He was always challenging everyone,” Smith said in a phone interview. “He was like, ‘This is mediocre, we’re not going to settle for that.'” He added that he had disdained using the word “stadium,” which evoked the round concrete facilities built in the 1960s and ’70s that housed baseball and football teams, “and would fine you $1 if you said the ‘S word.'” .

Lucchino left the Orioles in late 1993, shortly after Peter Angelos, who died last month, bought the team. The following year, Lucchino was part of a group that unsuccessfully bid for his hometown Pirates. But in late December 1994, he pivoted to become president and minority owner of the Padres. It was not a good time to buy a team: the players union was in the middle of a strike that had ended the postseason.

“The team was at the bottom of the hill,” Lucchino told The Sports Business Journal. “We had the worst attendance, the worst images, the worst revenue, the worst win-loss record. Probably the worst uniforms. “It couldn’t have been worse.”

The team improved on the field under his direction (they reached the World Series in 1998, but were swept by the Yankees); However, he was probably best known for his development work at Petco Park, which opened in 2004, three years after his departure. the team.

“He felt that Petco needed context, that it had to be something about San Diego,” Ms. Smith said.

Petco features include a granite exterior; an old brick building that was incorporated into left field infield; a mini park beyond the gardens with a small baseball field and a statue of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, and spectacular views of the San Diego Harbor from the upper deck.

Lucchino resigned from the Padres to go to the Red Sox, where he helped spark a renaissance. One of his first hires, Theo Epstein, then 28, became the youngest general manager in baseball history and the architect of a roster renovation that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007. (Later , Epstein moved to the Chicago Cubs organization, where he created their 2016 World Series-winning team).

Mr. Lucchino is survived by his brother Frank. His marriage to Stacey Johnson ended in divorce.

For his final stint in baseball, Lucchino went to the minor leagues. After leaving the Red Sox in 2015, he and other investors purchased the Pawtucket Red Sox in Rhode Island, the organization’s premier minor league team. After the state failed to approve a stadium financing package, he moved the team to Worcester, Massachusetts, where Polar Park opened in 2021.

Late last year, Lucchino sold the team, known as WooSox, to Diamond Baseball Holdings, part of a private equity firm that owns 30 minor league teams in the United States and Canada.

“At 78 years old and after 44 years in baseball” said in a press release“I think it’s time to have a succession plan, one that ensures a commitment to baseball and a commitment to Worcester.”

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