Larry Lucchino, top executive of three MLB teams, dies at 78

Larry Lucchino, who as top executive of the Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres oversaw the design of modern stadiums that reflected their surroundings – Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and Petco Park in San Diego – and who designed the Boston Red Sox Was as president of the Sox. The man who helped preserve Fenway Park for generations died Tuesday at his home in Brookline, Mass. He was 78 years old.

His family announced the death but did not provide any cause. He had been treated for cancer three times.

Mr. Lucchino became president of the Red Sox in 2002 with the ascension of new ownership under Red Sox principal owners John Henry and Tom Werner. In Mr. 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 seats over the Green Monster, a 37-foot-high left field wall, expanding concourse areas, and creating new concession areas.

Rather than replace it with a new stadium, Mr. Lucchino envisioned a renovation that would keep Fenway, which opened in 1912, viable for decades.

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

Mr. Lucchino's combative, competitive personality played a role in the rivalry between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees. In 2002, when the Yankees signed Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui and Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras within a matter of days, Mr. Luchino told The New York Times, “The evil empire extends its tentacles into Latin America as well.”

The nickname stuck – even as Boston's success exceeded that of the Yankees in the years to come. A year later, Mr. Lucchino further described the Yankees-Red Sox dynamic:

“It's extremely 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 front office, it's a rivalry among the fan base.”

The feeling was mutual.

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

Lawrence Luchino was born on September 6, 1945 in Pittsburgh. His father, Dominic, was a bar owner who later worked for the Pennsylvania court system. His mother, Rose (Rizzo) Luchino, was a secretary and an accounting clerk.

Mr. Lucchino played second base on his high school baseball team that won the city championship in Pittsburgh. At Princeton, he was a guard on the basketball team – whose star was Bill Bradley – that made 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 the Watergate impeachment inquiry of President Richard M. Nixon. One of his colleagues was Hillary Clinton.

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

Mr. Lucchino told The Boston Globe in 2002, “My career in baseball is a result of him, the opportunities he gave me and his belief in me.”

Following Mr. Williams's death in 1988, Mr. 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 brick and steel aesthetics and asymmetric field dimensions reminiscent of early-20th-century ballparks such as Forbes Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Shows where he went. as a boy. The old B&O Railroad warehouse beyond right field became a unique backdrop.

Camden Yards is often credited with inspiring other MLB teams to build distinctive ballparks in city 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. He described Mr. Luchino as a strong-willed personality who motivated architects and others to produce the best results.

“He was always challenging everybody,” Ms. Smith said in a phone interview. “He'll say, 'This is mediocre, we're not settling for that.' Baseball and football teams – “And if you said the 's-word' he'd fine you $1.”

Mr. Lucchino left the Orioles in late 1993, shortly after the team was purchased by Peter Angelos, who died last month. The following year, Mr. Lucchino was part of a group that made an unsuccessful bid for his hometown Pirates. But in late December 1994, he stepped up to become president and minority owner of the Padres. It was not a good time to buy a team: the players' union was going through a strike that wiped out the postseason.

“The team was down hill,” Mr. Lucchino told The Sports Business Journal. “We had the worst attendance, worst image, worst revenue, worst win-loss record. Possibly the worst uniform. “Nothing could have been worse than this.”

The team improved on the field under his direction – it reached the World Series in 1998, but was defeated by the Yankees – however, he was perhaps best known for his development work at Petco Park, which opened in 2004, three years after his departure. Was. Team.

“They realized that Petco needed context, it needed to be something about San Diego,” Ms. Smith said.

Petco features include a granite exterior; An old brick building that was incorporated into the interior of left field; Beyond the outfield is a mini-park featuring a small baseball diamond and a statue of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, and spectacular views of San Diego Harbor from the upper deck.

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

Mr. Luchino is survived by his brother, Frank. His marriage to Stacy Johnson ended in divorce.

For his final baseball move, Mr. 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 top minor league team. Following the state's failure to pass a stadium financing package, he moved the team to Worcester, Mass., where Polar Park opened in 2021.

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

“At the age of 78, and after 44 years in baseball,” he said in a news release, “I believe the time has come to create a succession plan that reflects our commitment to baseball and to Worcester.” Provides assurance of commitment.”

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