Former exec Larry Lucchino dies; led ballpark updates

By Jimmy Golen | Associated Press

BOSTON — Larry Lucchino, the force behind baseball’s retro revolution and the transformation of the Boston Red Sox from doomed losers to World Series champions, has died. He was 78 years old.

Lucchino suffered from cancer. The Triple-A Worcester Red Sox, his final project in a career that also included three major league baseball franchises and one in the NFL, confirmed his death Tuesday.

“Larry Lucchino was one of the most accomplished leaders our industry has ever had,” said Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. “He was deeply motivated, he understood the place of baseball in our communities and he had a keen sense of executive talent. »

A Pittsburgh native who played on the Princeton basketball team — led by future U.S. senator and Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Bradley — that reached the NCAA Final Four in 1965, Lucchino continued his studies at Yale Law School and worked on the House Judiciary Committee investigating the Watergate scandal. . He landed a job with Washington attorney Edward Bennett Williams and soon found himself working on Williams’ sports teams, the Washington NFL franchise and the Baltimore Orioles.

Lucchino became president of the Orioles, and it was during his tenure that the team replaced Memorial Stadium with an old-fashioned downtown ballpark that ended the evolution toward cavernous stadiums cookie cutter surrounded by parking lots. Camden Yards became a pioneer and Lucchino himself followed with a new approximation for the San Diego Padres, where he served as president and CEO.

“Little did we know we were going to start a revolution in rough architecture,” Lucchino told the Associated Press in 2021 as the WooSox prepared to open their new home, Polar Park. “We just wanted to build a nice little ballpark.”

Boston Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino (left), Red Sox Principal Owner John Henry (center) and Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner present World Series trophies to the Fenway Park crowd before Red Sox players boarded the duck. boats for the World Series victory parade for the Boston Red Sox on November 2, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images)

As Padres owner John Moores’ right-hand man, Lucchino led the push for Petco Park — another downtown stadium — allowing the Padres to vacate aging Qualcomm Stadium, which they shared with the NFL’s Chargers . The Padres ended a 14-year playoff drought by winning the NL West in 1996 and then the NL pennant in 1998.

Lucchino’s next stop was in Boston, helping to build the new ownership group led by John Henry and Tom Werner in 2002. Their decision to modernize Fenway Park rather than replace it – bucking another trend – preserved one of the jewels of baseball, which will open its 113th season on April 9.

But an even bigger overhaul was underway in the Red Sox front office and on the field. After hiring 28-year-old Theo Epstein as general manager — who started with the Orioles as an intern and followed Lucchino to the Padres — the Red Sox ended an 86-year championship drought, then won three other World Series through 2018.

“Larry’s career unfolded like a book of triumphs, marked by transformative moments that reshaped stadium design, enhanced the fan experience and created the ideal conditions for championships wherever his path took him , and especially in Boston,” Henry said. “Yet perhaps his most lasting legacy lies in the remarkable people he helped bring together at the Red Sox, all of whom are testaments to his training, wisdom and mentorship.”

Attorney Lucchino was known for his fierce, often adversarial approach that appeared antagonistic but was designed to sharpen arguments and iron out even the slightest imperfections in plans. It also inspired the loyalty of his supporters, including WooSox Chairman Charles Steinberg, who also worked with Lucchino in Baltimore, San Diego, Boston and Worcester, and current Red Sox Chairman and CEO Sam Kennedy, who followed Lucchino from San Diego to Boston. with Epstein, his high school friend.

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