1-Man’s Opinnion on Sports-Wednesday. ‘FAREWELL TO GREATNESS-LUCCHINO

Posted by on April 3rd, 2024  •  0 Comments  • 



The text I got from a baseball friend took the wind out of my sales in the early morning hours on Tuesday.

Larry Lucchino had passed away, from cancer, after having beaten it 3-times in a 20-year span.

Time ran out on one of the great minds of baseball, taken from us at age (78).

What a resume for a sports-lawyer turned executive, turned baseball visionary.

Pick any landing spot he planted his flag, his accomplishments were many.

The President of the Baltimore Orioles, helping rebuild the Birds, and the architect of Camden Yards, the first of the great ‘throwback personality stadiums’ of our time.

The President of the Padres, the man who created the concept of Petco Park, the East Village, the rebirth of the Gaslamp Quarter where old empty warehouses existed.

The President of the Red Sox, who ended the Curse of the Bambino guiding the Bosox to 3-World Series titles, and the decision maker who saved Fenway Park and renovated it, including the luxury seats above the Green Monster in left field.  He built a state of the art Jet Blue Park spring training complex too.

And he bought a minor league team in Pawtucket, built a state of the art minor league park in Worcester, a jewel in the International League.

The consultant who guided Pittsburgh to build the gem that is PNC Park, looking out on a city skyline with all its bridges across all those rivers.

And it was his Pittsburgh roots, growing up around old Forbes Field that led him to believe, red brick, green grass and blue skies should be part of every ballpark he would want to build.

He loved history and therefore the Western Metals Building and the B&O Railroad warehouse became cornerstone anchors of the stadiums in San Diego and Baltimore.

His life was entrenched in the communities too, leading the historic Jimmy Fund fighting cancer in Boston.

Lucchino was brilliant at sighting, scoping, hiring young front office execs.  He delivered us the popular Padres GM-Kevin Towers, who built pennant winners.

He did the same giving the keys to young exec Theo Epstein with the Red Sox.

He was dynamic, working with John Moores and his money, to save the Padres and give us the crown jewel downtown-Petco Park, 20-years ago.  He rescued the franchise from the terrible Tom Werner-Team of 15-ownership.

The lst time we set foot downtown, the only thing he had was a pile of dirt representing a pitchers mound with a ball on it….and lines of string from. a supposed home plate down the 1st and 3rd base lines.  The empty lot looked out onto the downtown horizon.  And we know what the stadium is now.

He did the same again, linking with John Henry to bring a modern day baseball operation to the proud, but underfinanced Red Sox, claiming the ‘State of New England’ as his sports territory.

He excelled working for an impossibly demanding owner in Edward Bennett Williams with the Redskins and then Orioles.

He coined the phrase ‘Evil Empire’ to describe the way George Steinbrenner operated the Yankees for decades, having no fear of the Yankees owner.

He created Cox Cable 4-for the Padres.

He sales-pitched planting the Padres flag in Mexico, to serve fans, take games there.  He pioneered baseball’s return for games in Japan, something that had not happened since the Walter O’Malley-Brooklyn Dodgers trips in the mid 1950s.

He understood a baseball teams’ place in its community and loved the history of the game, the father-son relationship baseball has in families.

He was combative too, wanting things done his way.  I saw some heated discussions with his own people.  His tolerance level of other baseball owners and their decisions was likely ‘zero’.

The story is true of his confrontation with Chargers owner Alex Spanos, after years they hardly co-existed at San Diego’s Jack Murphy’s Stadium.  Lucchino and Moores went to Spanos’ offices and told him the Padres were going downtown and would be willing to work together on a new stadium.  Alex said he had no interest in cooperating with the Padres on a deal and effectively threw Lucchino out of his office.

No problem, Lucchino and Moores went downtown, bought up all the land in the East Village warehouse area, projected they could build 5-hotels there to help support the growth that would then lead to office buildings and condos.  Look what is around that park, now.

Spanos sat in the crumbling Qualcomm Stadium, tried to get the city-county to pay for a  stadium deal , failed, had a miserable (1-15) season, and plotted to screw San Diego to go to LA, where they are a tenant and mostly on the periphery of the LA sports scene.

The entrepreneur genes in Lucchino were also surrounded by a street fighter personality.  He and Moores waded thru 23-lawsuits from people trying to block the Petco blueprint.  Yeah empty warehouses and decayed buildings were better a night at the new ballyard, where they drew an astounding (3.2M) just last summer.

He could be a bear to deal with.  The afternoon when I was doing my sportstalk show on XTRA 690 from the stadium parking lot, when he marched out of his office across the lot to confront-debate me about something I had said about the Padres signing Fernando Valenzuala, calling it a ‘stunt’.  I fondly remember him saying in the middle of the parking lot, ‘I wanted to be the first to tell you you are wrong.’  I enjoyed exchanging ‘opinions-and-gun fire’ with him for years.

I was saddened when the Moores-Lucchino relationship broke up.

He went off the deep end when his young GM-Epsitien,failed to close a deal on a free agent who wound up with the hated Yankees.

And his decades long war against cancer was an example of his attempts to accomplish everything, survival included, doing it his way.

Every place he worked, he was a success and left an amazing legacy as he moved on.

If only time had not run out.  I always thought his last job would be as Commissioner of Baseball.

Instead, the next assignment should be enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

A sad day for me, but a rewarding day, what he contributed, whether wearing Padres blue and orange, the Orioles orange and black, the color Red for the Sox, or the Black-Gold Pirates colors.

Personally, professionally, one of the most passionate people I ever crossed paths with.

Greatness describes who Larry Lucchino was, and what he accomplished.

We are thankful we crossed paths with him.


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