April 2, 2024

RIP Larry Lucchino (1945-2024)

Larry Lucchino, John Henry, and Tom Werner, with three Red Sox World Series trophies

Larry Lucchino, Red Sox president and CEO from 2002-2015, has died at the age of 78. Lucchino celebrated three World Series championships as a Red Sox executive, including the astonishing 2004 title that ended the franchise's 86-year title drought. Lucchino was also instrumental in saving Fenway Park, roughly a decade after he helped create a new standard for ballpark construction.

There was a lot of talk about replacing the venerable park in the late 1990s (in truth, threats or promises to get rid of Fenway went back decades before that). It was assumed that when the new ownership group took control of the team from the Yawkey Trust, a modern park would be built. But as Lucchino later said, "You can't destroy the Mona Lisa. You preserve the Mona Lisa."

He hired architect Janet Marie Smith – who helped design Camden Yards during Lucchino's time as Orioles president (1988-93) – and the team made more than $300 million in renovations over a ten-year period, including the construction of the Monster Seats atop the left field wall.

Lucchino was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2016. He is also a member of the Padres Hall of Fame; before coming to Boston, Lucchino served as the Padres' president/CEO from 1995-2001.

John Henry, Red Sox principal owner:

Larry's career unfolded like a playbook of triumphs, marked by transformative moments that reshaped ballpark design, enhanced the fan experience, and engineered the ideal conditions for championships wherever his path led him, and especially in Boston. Yet, perhaps his most enduring legacy lies in the remarkable people he helped assemble at the Red Sox, all of whom are a testament to his training, wisdom, and mentorship.

Many of them continue to shape the organization today, carrying forward the same vigor, vitality, and cherished sayings that were hallmarks of Larry's personality. Larry was a formidable opponent in any arena, and while he battled hard, he always maintained the utmost respect for a worthy adversary and found genuine joy in sparring with people. I was lucky enough to have had him in my corner for 14 years and to have called him a close friend for even longer. He was truly irreplaceable and will be missed by all of us at the Red Sox.

Tom Werner, Red Sox chairman:

When John and I joined forces with Larry in 2001, we dreamed not only of breaking an 86-year curse and winning multiple championships, but also about how a baseball team could transform and uplift a region. Larry was more decorated in sports than any of us, coming to the group with a Super Bowl ring, a World Series ring, and even a Final Four watch from his days playing basketball at Princeton. He added to that impressive collection with us in Boston because he was the kind of man who would find a path to success no matter the obstacles. He was bold and had the audacity to dare, challenge, and even taunt our rivals in ways that made the game of baseball better.

In a sport defined by statistics and standings, he was accomplished in every way, and while his career is a masterclass in leadership and innovation, he will be equally remembered for his unwavering commitment to community engagement and his hands-on role with the Red Sox Foundation and The Jimmy Fund. We are devastated by the loss of a great man, a great leader, and a great friend.

In late 2002, as the Red Sox were close to signing Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, the Yankees unexpectedly grabbed him at the last minute. Lucchino's reaction became famous: "The evil empire extends its tentacles, even into Latin America." Contreras ended up being a below-average pitcher for the EE before he was traded to the White Sox in July 2004. The Red Sox recovered.

Theo Epstein worked with Lucchino in Baltimore and San Diego before becoming, at age 28, the youngest general manager in baseball history (at the time):

Larry leaves behind a giant baseball legacy full of historic accomplishments with three different organizations. For me and for so many of my best friends in baseball, Larry gave us our start, believing in us and setting an enduring example with his work ethic, vision, competitiveness and fearlessness. He made a profound impact on many in baseball – and on the game itself – and will be missed.

Sam Kennedy, another Lucchino protege and the Red Sox's current president and CEO:

There are so many of us who were given our start in baseball by Larry. He loved a good slogan and his campaign to 'free the Brookline two' liberated Theo and I from the San Diego Padres, allowing us to work for our hometown team and changing the trajectory of our lives forever. He instilled in us, and so many others, a work ethic, passion, competitive fire that we will carry forever. His legacy is one that all of us who were taught by him feel a deep responsibility to uphold. When those he mentored moved on from the Red Sox, he would always say, 'We'll leave a light on for you.' The lights will always be on for you at Fenway Park, Larry. May you rest in peace.

David Ortiz:

Larry Lucchino was someone who really cared about the Red Sox doing well. When I first joined the organization, he was just the business guy who dealt with the agent. As a player, it was sometimes hard to understand where he was coming from, but he made everything about winning and the organization doing well. Once we got to know each other better, we became really good friends. I loved Larry. He supported me and always gave me really good advice. Our relationship kept getting better and better. It is so sad to see him go, and I send my condolences to his family and all who loved him. He knew how to put the pieces together. When you talked to Larry and understood what the Red Sox meant to him, you got the memo: Win.

The Red Sox were able to bring the Large Father to Boston because of a phone call Pedro Martinez  made to Lucchino after the Twins had released Ortiz.

My heart goes out to the Lucchino family. They lost not only a great man, but a visionary with the biggest heart, even though he tried to cover it playing shy and trying to hide away from people's eyes. … But not me; he didn't fool me. We just lost a dear friend and we're all sad about it. I will miss you my dear friend. R.I.P. Larry.

Dustin Pedroia:

Larry was a winner. Didn't matter if it was a contract negotiation, saving Fenway, asking players what we need to compete. Larry was going to work until the job was finished. He had a presence and an attitude that wouldn't be denied. He was a tone setter for our organization.

Alex Cora, Red Sox manager:

Larry was a visionary. He saw things before they happened, taking the fan experience to the next level in every city he worked. And he won. He was a relentless winner. Larry led a great life and impacted so many of us. I'm thankful to have had him as a part of my life.

Mike Lupica, long-time New York sportswriter:

He was one of the great baseball men of this time or any time, and when you add up everything that has happened to the Red Sox since he became a part of their management team over two decades ago, he is without question the best and most important baseball man the club has ever had. Sadly, he dies without being in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, where he belongs.

John Henry and Tom Werner became the owners of the team back in 2002. But it was Lucchino, as president of the Red Sox the way he had been president of the Orioles and the Padres before that, who set the tone for everything that happened after he got to Boston. It was Lucchino who did the most to create a culture that changed everything for a team that hadn't won a World Series since 1918.

Mike Barnicle, MSNBC commentator and former Boston Globe columnist:

His legacy is the management teams that he assembled in [Baltimore] and San Diego and in Boston. His legacy is being a driving force behind the building of Camden Yards and Petco Park and bringing Fenway into the 21st century. His legacy is hiring young men like Theo Epstein and Sam Kennedy. But more than anything else, it was Larry's vision that finally put the Red Sox into the 'yes' business. 'Yes, we can win the World Series again. Yes, we can put together a winning team not just on the field but in the front office, as well.' Greatest yes man we ever had in Boston, in all the best ways.

From the Red Sox:

We are heartbroken to share that our beloved brother and uncle, Lawrence Lucchino, passed away on April 2 surrounded by his family. The Lucchino family wishes to thank his friends and caregivers who, over the past few months, have surrounded him with love, laughter, and happy memories.

To us, Larry was an exceptional person who combined a Hall of Fame life as a Major League Baseball executive with his passion for helping those people most in need. . . . Equally important to Larry was the establishment of a first-of-its-kind in professional sports "San Diego Padres Scholars" college scholarship program, co-founding the Boston Red Sox Foundation, and being Chairman of the Jimmy Fund, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's grassroots effort to help save lives and give hope to cancer patients everywhere. He brought the same passion, tenacity, and probing intelligence to all his endeavors, and his achievements speak for themselves.