Larry Lucchino rarely looked to his parents for career advice.
Born and raised in working-class Pittsburgh in the 1950s, he played basketball at Princeton, got his law degree from Yale and landed a job at the prestigious Williams & Connolly law firm, where larger-than-life co-founder Edward Bennett Williams quickly became his mentor.
All of this was well outside the experience of Dominic Lucchino, who tended bar and owned a small grocery store before landing a job in the state court system, and his wife, Rose, who worked as a secretary and accounting clerk and was president of the PTA.
So when their son, the successful lawyer and rising baseball executive, came to either of them for advice, they invariably told him he knew best.
Lucchino expected that would be their answer again when he laid out a life-changing choice he faced in 1994, while determining what to do after leaving the presidency of the Baltimore Orioles, the team Williams once owned.
Here is the schedule for each Champions profile. For a video profile go to SBJTV.com.
April — Jean Afterman
May — Tom Wilson
July — Larry Lucchino
August — Bill Hancock
September — Tony Dungy
October — Harlan Stone
Exiting the Orioles after Williams died and the team had been sold twice, Lucchino came away with an equity payout of $14 million, which he planned to roll into another club. With his hometown Pirates on the block, Lucchino assembled a group to buy the team.
While working on that deal, he was approached by John Moores, a software billionaire who wanted to buy the San Diego Padres. Hoping to land his own new ballpark, Moores asked Lucchino to join his group and run the team. Lucchino was too far along to abandon his Pittsburgh investors, but he liked Moores and offered to lend advice and connections.
When Moores got the team, he approached Lucchino again.
Lucchino was torn. His group was one of two left bidding on the Pirates. But there was no guarantee they would prevail. Moores’ deal was done.
While visiting his parents one day, he laid out his conundrum.
“What should I do?” he asked.
Not surprisingly, his father focused on the practical, telling him to make sure he came away “financially independent,” an easy bar considering the money he’d made from the Orioles sale.
His mother — “the rock on which we built everything,” who introduced him to Pirates radio broadcasts while his father worked nights — instead focused on what she thought would fulfill him.
“I remember that the most fun you had was when you had an absolute free hand in running things in Baltimore,” she told him. “So just be sure you get that kind of free hand.”
Lucchino’s opportunity with the Orioles had been an extraordinary one. Williams loved ownership, but he was too busy to devote much time to it. As his health failed, he relied on Lucchino even more. When Williams died in 1988, his wife, Agnes, told Lucchino to run the team as he saw fit. When she sold the Orioles a year later, it was to a group that included Lucchino.
Though new owner Eli Jacobs kept Lucchino on as CEO, he never trusted him the way Williams had. There were extraordinary successes, such as Camden Yards and its flood of newfound revenue, but also frequent second-guessing of his decisions and strife within ownership.
So when Jacobs sold to Peter Angelos, Lucchino declined an offer to stay on in a lesser role.
In San Diego, he saw the chance to operate much as he had under Williams. He’d also get a 10.5% stake in the club and a healthy annual salary.
Lucchino bowed out of the bidding for the Pirates and threw in with Moores.
He made sure his first employment contract with the Padres included his mother’s very words, conferring a “free hand” to make all day-to-day operating decisions.
Twenty-six years later, seated behind a desk in a ballpark suite in Worcester, where he presides as principal owner and chairman of the Red Sox’s recently relocated Class AAA affiliate, Lucchino reflected on that decision, that wording, and the role both played in a baseball life that led him to run clubs in Baltimore, San Diego and Boston.
He maintained that “free hand” in San Diego initially, but over time the natural evolution of sports ownership took its course. Moores came to know the business better and wanted to run things himself. Lucchino left, landing as CEO in a “Dream Team” triad that bought the Red Sox.
He knew he’d never have a “free hand” in Boston, but the opportunity was irresistible. He remained in the role for 14 seasons and three World Series championships before surrendering the office at the end of 2015.
Flanked by a display case with four replica World Series trophies and a wall of art commemorating his five ballpark projects, he thought back to Williams, who died before any of it, but set the stage for it all.
When Lucchino joined the law firm, Williams owned the Washington Redskins. He had Lucchino do some legal work for the team, and eventually serve as its general counsel. He worked on Williams’ 1979 purchase of the Orioles, which the owner soon entrusted him to run.
When Williams died, Lucchino lost a friend and mentor. He also feared he’d lose his way.
“I felt terribly alone and insecure, because he was the rock that I had clung to for such a long time,” Lucchino said. “He was why I went to the law firm. He was why I got a chance to work in football. He was why I got a chance to work in baseball. He was my friend and my partner, my Roman Catholic soulmate. And I thought that I was just going to spin in circles and be sent off to be taking depositions in the hinterlands somewhere. But even from the grave, his influence and power was substantial.
“For that year [after Williams died], Agnes just said, ‘You be the principal owner. You make the decisions. I don’t need to know about it. I trust you.’
“I was lucky to have that kind of start.”
Lucchino took a slug from a bottle of water.
“My career seems to have been an erosion of power and influence ever since,” he dead-panned.
He trailed off into a high-pitched cackle.
Larry Lucchino proudly displays World Series replica trophies, mementos of past Red Sox success, in Worcester.Ashley Green
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Lucchino was in his suite in Worcester’s new, $160 million ballpark, cutting into a dinner of beef tips, when a staffer came in to alert him of a malfunctioning video board.
Through much of his career, this would have sent Lucchino storming into the control room, screaming about the giant screen’s cost and demanding that it be fixed immediately. Instead, he calmly suggested that they notify the team’s president, his longtime friend Charles Steinberg.
“What they say about baseball players is the same for baseball executives: They mature after they’ve exhausted all other options,” Lucchino said, returning to his meal. “I was a scorched earth kind of guy. That came naturally and then the law firm contributed to it. If we burned a few bridges, so be it.
“Maybe it’s sickness. Maybe it’s a combination of things. But I feel a little — what’s the word? — a little less eager to be aggressive now. I’ll never be passive. But it’s called maturity. It’s called growth. It’s called life. I’m not 33 years old or at my first baseball meeting. I’m 75 years old. So it’s a different situation.”
Sickness has been with Lucchino for nearly as long as pro sports. He was just shy of 40 when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that required an experimental bone marrow transplant. The cancer has been back twice, in his prostate in 2000 and a kidney in 2019. The experience has bound him tightly to Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where doctors saved his life. Since 2015, he has chaired the institute’s Jimmy Fund, which the Red Sox support mightily.
While cancer forced him to pause, he never stopped, or even slowed. Those who know him well chuckle at his suggestion that he has mellowed.
Born: Sept. 6, 1945, Pittsburgh
Wife, Stacey; two children, Davis and Blair
Princeton, Bachelor of Arts in history (1967); Yale Law School, Juris Doctor (1971)
Three seasons on the Princeton basketball team, captained by future U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley; advanced to the 1965 Final Four
1973-74: Staff attorney, House Judiciary Committee during Watergate impeachment inquiry
1974-1988: Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams & Connolly, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles, vice president/general counsel (the firm’s founder, Edward Bennett Williams, was the Redskins’ majority owner and purchased the Orioles in 1979); won the 1983 World Series
1979-1985: Redskins’ board of directors (team won Super Bowl XVII in 1983)
1988-93: Baltimore Orioles, president; minority owner; led the development of Oriole Park at Camden Yards
1995-2001: San Diego Padres, president and CEO; minority owner; led the development of Petco Park
2002-2015: Boston Red Sox, president and CEO; minority owner; won three World Series titles; led renovation of Fenway Park; led the 2012 development of JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., the club’s $78 million spring training ballpark
2015-present: Fenway Sports Group, president and CEO emeritus/Worcester Red Sox, principal owner and chairman; led the 2021 relocation of the club from Pawtucket, R.I., and the development of the new Polar Park
2010-2018: Special Olympics, board of directors
2016-present: The Jimmy Fund, benefiting the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, chairman
“The work ethic was unparalleled,” said Theo Epstein, who interned with the Orioles and followed Lucchino to San Diego and then Boston. “He was incredibly thorough. He would force himself and others to look at things from multiple perspectives before making a decision.
“Everything he did set the tone for some pretty dynamic front offices that he led. There are times when you need somebody else’s high standards to help you raise your game.”
Lucchino’s reputation as a competitor goes back to childhood. He chose Princeton over the other Ivys because of its up-and-coming basketball program. When he arrived they handed him a large cafeteria tray and sent him to work in the dining hall. He remembers phoning his mother, disturbed by what he perceived as a slight. In high school, he’d been class president, a standout academically and in two sports.
“Don’t these people know who I am?” he said.
“They know exactly who you are,” she replied.
By his junior year, he ran the dining halls, overseeing student waiters and busboys.
He went on to law school at Yale, then a staff role on the House Judiciary Committee, where he worked on the Watergate inquiry. That led to an offer from Williams & Connolly, where Lucchino continued to display his now well-known appetite for long hours and hard work.
“I think I’ve had this element of insecurity in my life that has motivated me, where maybe you feel like you have to work harder than others,” Lucchino said. “I had that in my deep background. And then I ran into Ed Williams, who was the classic workaholic. Prepare for 1,200 things that may go wrong, and even if three of them do, you’ll be prepared for those three because you prepared for 1,200. That’s a trial lawyer’s philosophy. It was certainly Williams’ philosophy. That’s probably part of the reason I keep running.”
The approach can wear on those who work for him. Reviewing a plan or proposal, he will tug at any loose thread he finds. Did you think of this? What about that?’ His objections can be difficult to predict, fueled by a predilection to solicit input from all levels and corners.
“It sort of fits my personality that you need several different people to evaluate a thing objectively,” Lucchino said unapologetically. “The jury system works because it brings 12 different perspectives.”
Lessons learned from Williams underpin much of his philosophy.
He was in the room when Williams interviewed Bobby Beathard, the Miami Dolphins’ personnel director, to be the Redskins GM. After the meeting, Williams asked Lucchino what he thought.
“I love the guy,” Lucchino said. “But he can’t balance his checkbook.”
Lucchino got some minutes on the Princeton basketball team.
“We’ve got 10 guys that can balance his checkbook,” Williams said. “This guy knows where the bodies are buried, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Lucchino thought about that when, as president of the Padres, he promoted Kevin Towers from scouting director to GM after an exhaustive outside search.
“I wasn’t looking for an administrator, I was looking for an evaluator; a guy who can go out and see talent,” Lucchino said. “That’s always been a sine qua non for me when it comes to baseball front office people. Can they evaluate talent? Because 10 other guys can balance the checkbook.”
Williams not only relied on Lucchino, he empowered him. He was 33 when Williams took him to his first NFL meetings. At the end of the first of four days, the owner announced he was flying home, leaving him in charge. Lucchino would be the youngest executive in the room, without a single ally or even acquaintance.
“You’ll do fine,” Williams said.
Williams extended that empowerment a decade later, when he dispatched Lucchino to Baltimore to take over as president of the Orioles, who were in turmoil after starting the ’88 season at 0-21 — horrific timing for a club that was closing in on financing for a badly needed new ballpark.
“Get up there,” Williams told Lucchino, who until then had been serving as his proxy from D.C. “My words come through your lips.”
Each time Williams opened a door, Lucchino ran through it. That included business-side functions typically handled by a team president, such as budgeting and his now seminal securing of a new, baseball-only stadium. But it also included the negotiation of many player contracts.
Ironman Cal Ripken Jr. signs a new five-year deal in 1992 negotiated by Larry Lucchino.Courtesy of Worcester Red Sox
At one point during Lucchino’s time with the Orioles, Baltimore attorney Ron Shapiro represented 20 of 25 players on the major league roster, including icon Cal Ripken. He sat across the table from Lucchino often. Shapiro often speaks of the time he and Lucchino retreated to a pond on Shapiro’s nearby farm, where they shared stories before agreeing on a record extension for Ripken, ending a 344-day stalemate in time for the player’s 28th birthday.
“Most people Larry negotiated with, he built relationships with,” said Shapiro, who now considers Lucchino a close friend. “He would be tough in that he would state a position and tell you how ridiculous yours was. But in the end, he never let the relationship go away, so that you could pull the chestnuts out of the fire even though it looked like the fire was raging.”
Steinberg, then head of the team’s video department, remembers rushing to Lucchino’s office to congratulate him on Ripken’s signing, only to find his friend alone at his desk, head buried in his hands. Ripken was the reigning MVP. But he was having a bad year.
“Somebody, please tell me I did the right thing,” Lucchino said to Steinberg.
“Of course you did,” Steinberg said. “It’s Cal Ripken for god’s sakes. It’s a no-brainer.”
“It’s not a no-brainer!” Lucchino shouted. “I’m committing $30 million of this ballclub to someone for the next five years. And we don’t know how he is going to do!”
This was in 1992, after three years working for Jacobs. For all their successes, Lucchino never was comfortable with the ownership dynamic.
It wasn’t what he had previously, or wanted next.
“Ed Williams adored him,” Shapiro said. “He treated him with tough love. But it was clear to me that these two men were connected in a familial sense and truly loved each other. And that, he could never replicate any place else he went. He could have respect when he was in Boston. Initial respect in San Diego. But it would never be the same. So he could continue to make money and grow his wealth. But he couldn’t reproduce an atmosphere where, although he was not the principal owner, he was a member of the family — and the member of the family that the owner looked to really as a decision-maker by his side.
“He’d never find that again.”
John Henry, Tom Warner and Larry Lucchino brought championship baseball back to Boston. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox
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It takes an agile mind and hearty soul to stare into baseball hell and see paradise.
The San Diego Padres had the worst record in baseball — 47-70 — when the strike of 1994 mercifully halted their season. Moores closed on the purchase of the team that December.
“It was a great situation,” Lucchino said, reflecting on his westward migration. “The team was at the bottom of the hill. We had the worst attendance, the worst imagery, the worst revenue, the worst won-loss record. Probably the worst uniforms. It couldn’t have been any worse.”
Desperate to stem losses during the strike, ownership had stripped the organization down to about a dozen employees.
Having a 'seat at the table'
When Padres GM Kevin Towers identified Japanese star Hideki Irabu as his high priority in the offseason preceding 1997, Larry Lucchino contacted Dan Okimoto, a Princeton classmate who went on to specialize in Japanese-American relations at Stanford.
While New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner lobbed princely offers at Irabu’s club, the Chiba Lotte Marines, by phone, Lucchino invited Okimoto to join him on a trip to meet with the team’s executives in person.
They returned from Japan having secured a “partnership” with the Marines that would include the club’s use of the Padres spring training complex and visits from Padres coaches.
Also, the Padres would receive exclusive rights to negotiate with Irabu.
No money changed hands.
“Everything was done respectfully, observing all proprieties of culture,” Steinberg said. “Nothing as garish as cash.”
Of course, signing Irabu would be another matter. His agent made it clear he would leave Japan only if he could play in New York.
Recognizing a shift in leverage, Lucchino got clearance from the Japanese club to trade the rights. When the Yankees came in with a low offer, he shopped Irabu’s rights to the Mets. The Yankees came back with a much improved offer: Two highly regarded prospects and $3 million.
That money helped cover a payroll increase the next year that allowed the Padres to trade for Kevin Brown, who was the ace of their 1998 World Series team.
“When I came into the game there was a negative predisposition that unless you played professional baseball or wear a windbreaker all the time, you’re not meant to be connected to the game on the field,” Lucchino said. “When Ed made me team president in ’88, I was immediately asked what my role would be and I said … ‘I’m not going to be dictating baseball moves, but I will have a seat at the table to question people about them.’
“I’ve taken that position from the outset.”
This was one of the reasons Lucchino found the job particularly appealing when he arrived late in 1994. With no staff in place, he was left to populate his own. He brought Jay Emmett, a former Warner Communications president who worked closely with him under Williams in Baltimore, as an adviser. He plucked Steinberg to run communications. He hired Epstein, who interned with the Orioles three times and was working in PR for the club, as director of player development. He tried to bring Janet Marie Smith, the ballpark development savant who later would re-unite with him in Boston, but couldn’t get her out of another commitment.
In San Diego, their merry band grew. Epstein recommended a high school friend, Sam Kennedy, for a job in corporate sales. When Kennedy arrived for the interview, he handed his résumé across the desk. He was working in ad sales at a New York City radio station, but he’d proudly listed a New York Yankees internship at the top.
“Theo speaks very highly of you,” Lucchino said.
He scanned Kennedy’s résumé, then tore it into tiny pieces.
“New York Yankees!” Lucchino howled. “How do you expect us to hire someone from the New York Yankees?”
Kennedy backpedaled. He blurted out that he’d grown up in Boston and remained a die-hard Sox fan. Lucchino turned the conversation to Boston, the month he’d spent there recovering from cancer, and the healing properties he’d found when doctors finally allowed him to visit Fenway Park.
“Here you have this hard charging, driven, kind of gruff, really intelligent baseball executive who rips up my résumé and then two minutes later is talking about the incredible nurses and docs at the Dana Farber,” said Kennedy, who later followed Lucchino to Boston and succeeded him as Red Sox president. “It was sort of a juxtaposition of two different sides to him that are always there. He’s incredibly compassionate. Empathetic. I wouldn’t say he’s warm, in terms of personality. But he’s deeply caring for others.”
Soon after arriving on the West Coast, Lucchino bought a $3.5 million home on the ocean in La Jolla, which he still owns. He welcomed friends and staff to come and go as they pleased, even when he wasn’t there. Steinberg remembers stopping by some afternoons, grabbing a soda from the fridge, and staring at the waves in solitude.
“All seven of our years in San Diego were great,” Steinberg said. “But those first five were Camelot.”
In the end, the relationship between Moores and Lucchino frayed. Once entirely reliant on Lucchino’s expertise, Moores developed strong opinions of his own. They clashed on the new stadium, the roster and broader league matters. There could only be one free hand, and it would belong to Moores.
Frank Cashen, the former Orioles GM, used to joke with Lucchino that it took “five or six years to raise a good owner.”
“That was Frank’s line,” Lucchino said. “After six or seven years, John wanted to be more active. So he wanted me to step upstairs with my ownership interest. I said, ‘I think I can still play center field.’”
It was time for Lucchino to go again.
“It’s just what happens sometimes; not necessarily anyone’s fault,” said Bud Selig, the former MLB commissioner who often turned to Lucchino for help on prickly matters. “The longer the owners are in baseball, the more involved they get. That is a natural progression. That’s what happens in ownership groups.”
Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox front-office staff accept the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014.Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox
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Soon after word spread that Lucchino was out with the Padres, he got a call from TV producer Tom Werner. Werner was putting together a group to bid for the Red Sox, who were on the auction block. Lucchino agreed to join him.
While he worked on that deal, Selig dispatched him to work as a consultant on Marlins owner John Henry’s stalled quest for a new ballpark. Eventually, Henry shared that he was kicking the tires of a few other franchises, most notably the Disney-owned Anaheim Angels. Henry asked Lucchino if he’d join the group and run the club.
“I can’t ride two horses,” Lucchino told him. “I’ve got to just pick one, and I already picked the Red Sox.”
Lucchino was at a Yale-Brown football game about a week later when his cellphone chirped. It was Henry. Disney was asking $230 million for the Angels, far more than he was willing to pay. Eager to keep Henry in the game, Selig had sent word that he should call Lucchino about the Red Sox. When Henry asked Lucchino how that deal was progressing, Lucchino confessed that they were short on cash.
“You think there’s room for me in your group?” Henry asked.
“You’re absolutely the guy we’re looking for,” Lucchino replied. “Baseball acceptability and deep pockets.”
Lucchino encouraged Henry to get to L.A. to meet Werner. They hit it off. They informed their other partners that they were in line for an infusion, initially referring to Henry only as “Investor 11” to protect his identity. MLB still had work to do on the byzantine machinations that would get Henry from Miami to Boston.
David Ortiz spoke after the Boston Marathon bombing. getty images
In Milwaukee, a man who desperately wanted stable and well-heeled ownership for an iconic franchise watched with fingers crossed, nudging the union along where he could.
“I’m the culprit who hooked these three guys up together,” Selig said. “And they all fit in very well, at least for a long time. Tom was in L.A. John had other businesses to run at that time. It needed somebody on the ground who had had past experience, who had a history, to report back to those two guys.”
That, of course, would be Lucchino, whose ramrod leadership style would drive the franchise forward day-to-day.
The “Dream Team” of baseball ownership married Henry’s wealth, Werner’s media industry experience and Lucchino’s ballpark expertise. The biggest question was whether three men who had each controlled balllclubs previously could stay out of each other’s way.
Iconic Boston moment: 'This is our city'
Not all of Larry Lucchino’s decisions have played out exactly as intended.
Reviewing plans for a pregame ceremony the Red Sox planned for their first game back after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Lucchino said he wanted a player to speak. A friend who’d run an NBA team had graded the Red Sox Opening Day ceremony an A- because none of the players addressed the crowd. Lucchino wanted to invite David Ortiz to “say a word” this time.
“You realize if you ask David Ortiz to take a microphone in front of 38,000 people, the chances of him dropping an F-bomb are about 100%,” the executive planning the event warned him.
“You’re out of your mind,” Lucchino told her. “David is not going to say the F-word in front of an entire stadium.”
“This is our (expletive) city,” Ortiz said, drawing cheers from the crowd. “And nobody is going to dictate our freedoms. Stay strong.”
Even that turned out OK, as it welded the club to a Boston Strong slogan that became a movement that begat a third World Series championship since 2004. Five years later came a fourth, the most of any team in that span.
“I talked to them a lot about that,” Selig said. “And I became convinced that they really needed each other. It would be good for them, and it would be good for baseball.”
Lucchino got the first inkling the Sox would need an organizational overhaul months before he had the authority to begin one, when he and fiancee Stacey stopped to see Fenway on their way to Nantucket for Labor Day weekend. They were greeted by a Gate D security guard, who brusquely shooed them away. When Lucchino introduced himself as CEO of the Padres, it made no difference.
“We have a rule,” the guard said.
From that exchange was born a slogan that would come to define the organization’s approach to service: We are in the “Yes” business. “No matter what someone asks you,” Lucchino told staffers, “the default should be yes.”
The new ownership group also made swift changes in the front office, firing general manager Dan Duquette less than 24 hours after closing on their purchase. Lucchino said he and Werner initially intended to keep Duquette on as GM, telling him so over a lunch to discuss the club’s direction.
Duquette envisioned himself more as team president.
“I don’t know how to say this, but, uh, that job is already taken, Dan,” Lucchino said he told him. “I’m going to do that.”
“I should have it,” Duquette replied.
“We’re good friends and have worked together and I have enormous affection for Dan,” Lucchino says now. “But he was Johnny Wrongnote at the interview that determined whether he stayed or left.”
They made it through that first season with an interim GM, Mike Port, before focusing on a long-term solution.
Lucchino knew who he wanted. At 28, Epstein would be MLB’s youngest GM ever, but Lucchino would be there to lend experience as needed, maintaining oversight — “a seat at the table” as he calls it — on high-priority decisions.
Topping those that offseason was the extension of ace Pedro Martinez. One afternoon, Martinez phoned Lucchino. He didn’t want to talk about his own deal. He was calling to ask Lucchino to extend a spring training invitation to David Ortiz, a friend who’d been nontendered by the Twins.
Though Epstein said he had other plans for the DH slot, Lucchino agreed.
“I remind Theo of that story from time to time,” Lucchino said. “He was open enough as a young GM to allow for that kind of stuff to happen.”
Not all of Lucchino’s decisions worked out.
There were stumbles, notably an unsightly public spat with Epstein that Henry had to mediate after the GM quit at the end of the 2006 season. But they seem trivial today when compared to the group’s shared body of work — three World Series championships with Lucchino as CEO and four with him in the group, the most of any team in that span.
Though Henry declined interview requests for this story, he answered several questions by email, referring to Lucchino as “one of the most important executives in baseball history.”
Things only Larry says
Janet Marie Smith has worked for, or with, Larry Lucchino on ballpark development at each of his baseball stops except San Diego, including his current venture, Polar Park in Worcester, Mass.
Charles Steinberg has been with him through them all.
Both point to his affinity for memorable language as a key trait of his leadership.
“Larry loves alliteration, and he loves acronyms,” Smith said. “If it has a name, we can remember it. Two of my favorites are WAAF: We are all fans. ‘Let’s have a WAAF meeting.’ And the other that I love is the DFN. ‘Who is the DFN on that project?’ The ‘dreaded first name.’ It speaks to the fact that no one of us is solely responsible for anything — but you need a leader. It reflects a management style that is Larry’s.”
Lucchino is also a fan of aphorisms — memorable statements that reflect undeniable truths.
“There are a ton of aphorisms that have been attributed to me,” Lucchino said. “If you put them together, you probably get some coherent managerial philosophy.”
OK, here goes:
■ Nothing is often a good thing to say and always a brilliant thing to do.
■ All’s well that ends.
■ It can be done. Don’t tell me no. Show me how.
■ You are judged in life by your entrances and your exits.
■ Don’t tell me how stormy the sea is. Just tell me the ship has come in.
■ We are in the “yes” business.
■Want something done? Ask a busy person.
■ Praise in public. Criticize in private.
■ Don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle.
■ Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
“He has a very different management style than I do, but he was so damned talented I wasn’t going to get in his way with operations,” Henry wrote. “He didn’t need to be managed. He just needed resources and created a lot of them.”
The differences they had were similar to some Lucchino had at previous stops, when he reached beyond what some saw as his purview.
“Larry ran baseball operations prior to the Sox,” Henry wrote. “However, with the Sox I kept business concerns out of the player acquisition equation. That wasn’t always easy. … Any other differences we had were normal, temporary and minor compared to what Tom, Larry and I accomplished together.”
It is telling that Epstein still speaks highly of Lucchino.
“Working with him is something that had a real impact on me and I’d say on just about everybody who ever worked for him,” Epstein said. “He’s not someone that you just sort of are around and move on from. He makes people better, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Though Kennedy flourished under Lucchino, he knows he can not be him. He said he tries to emulate the work ethic; the expecting more of others only after giving the most of himself. When Lucchino handed over the keys, his advice was that Kennedy be himself.
“He is not a fan of structure and hierarchy,” Kennedy said. “He doesn’t like to be constrained by anything, including formal rigid rules or policies or budgets. He used to say I wanted my lines to all be at right angles. And that the world is much more blurry than that.’”
Asked if Lucchino preferred a structure with blurred lines, Steinberg’s eyes widened.
“No!” he shouted. “He doesn’t like any lines. He doesn’t like lines, fences or keys. To work well with Larry, you must recognize that there is gratification in the mental agility required to change plans successfully in the last minute.”
Steinberg has been with Lucchino since the early days in Baltimore. He, Smith and others who have ridden with Lucchino are fiercely loyal to him, and he to them.
“I’ve been blessed with a 42-year span to get to understand him,” Steinberg said. “If you’re just passing through and you suffer from quick-minded judgement, you may not understand him. You may call him by three letters other than CEO.
“But if you understand him, he’s the best.”
Larry Lucchino and architect Janet Marie Smith look over a model of Baltimore’s groundbreaking Camden Yards.Courtesty of Worcester Red Sox
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Lucchino ended his tenure as Red Sox CEO when his last contract expired at the end of 2015, finalizing a succession in the works for two years. He likely would have extended, but Henry and Werner were ready to move on.
In his last year running the team, Lucchino suggested the Red Sox buy the club’s Class AAA affiliate in Pawtucket. Henry and Werner declined. They said he should put together a group, a fitting challenge to follow his soon-to-end tenure as Red Sox CEO.
“John and Tom wanted to step up to my position with the team, understandably,” Lucchino said. “John had always made that point clear. So, about 14 years later, it was time for me to leave and it was also time for us to buy the PawSox.”
Working with Providence attorney Jim Skeffington, Lucchino put together a group of investors with the intent of moving the club to Providence. When Skeffington died shortly after the purchase, Lucchino bought his shares and enough others to hold the majority.
Lucchino and his wife, Stacey, celebrate the Red Sox winning the World Series at the team’s 2004 victory parade.Nichole Schrafft/Boston Red Sox
Once again, Lucchino would engage in the wrangling required to fund a new ballpark. When they couldn’t secure public money in Rhode Island, they turned to Worcester, which sees the ballpark project as an anchor to revive its downtown, an objective with which Lucchino is familiar.
Though COVID-19 restrictions delayed construction, the park opened on schedule in May, with some work continuing. A left field office building was pushed back to next year, but they were able to open a left field berm and center field playground earlier this month.
Lucchino’s fingerprints are all over the project, as are those of friends Steinberg and Smith, the band back together for one final show.
At a game early in June, Lucchino watched fans file in, heads swiveling. He owned a piece of each of the three major league clubs he ran, but this is the first time he holds more than a minority stake. In Boston, Henry is principal owner and Werner is chairman. In Worcester, Lucchino is both.
The next morning in his office, Lucchino said he still is processing the transition.
“We don’t focus enough on wisdom or experience or a sense of people and what motivates them until we get older,” Lucchino said. “I’ve had a number of conversations with [Bill] Bradley about how the ’70s are a decade in which that should take place. There’s personal growth that still goes on as you get older. Your body may not be able to do the same number of pushups, but you can think more deeply about other kinds of things and reflect more honestly about the life you’ve lived.”