By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
THE MAKING OF A BUILDER
In 1979, when Eward Bennett Williams, the legendary Washington, D.C. “superlawyer”,
was co-owner of the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, he plucked
one of the young partners from his law firm to become the team’s general counsel. A year
later Williams bought the the American League’s Baltimore Orioles and that same young
attorney was installed as the vice president/general counsel of the baseball team.
Thus was born the baseball career of Larry Lucchino.
When Williams was dying of cancer he turned the reins of the Orioles over to Lucchino,
namimg him president in May of 1988 (Williams died three months later). While serving
in that capacity Lucchino undertook and oversaw the creation of Orioles Park at Camden
Yards, the retro-flavored yet modernly equipped facility that changed the way present-
day ballparks are conceptualized and constructed. It is impossible to even estimate how
many millions of fans those newer parks have attracted since the opening of Camden
Yards twenty-five years ago.
After the Orioles were sold Lucchino became president and CEO of the San Diego Padres
and in that capacity spear-headed the design of Petco Park which, in addition to being a
great place to watch a game, has served as the lynchpin for the revitalization of that city’s
colorful Gaslight District.
Fron San Diego it was on to Boston where he made perhaps his greatest contribution to
the game of baseball and to civic betterment by NOT building a new ballpark. As
president and CEO of the Red Sox he decided, along with co-owners John Henry and
Tom Werner and their partners, that Fenway Park was worth saving. Henry, Werner and
their partners committed a half billion dollars to the restoration and modernization of the
old park and Lucchino took charge of getting the job done. Thus it was that the “the lyric
little bandbox” (to quote John Updike), unlike so many other parks of its generation, was
saved from the wrecker’s ball.
To say that the rebirth of Fenway Park has been a success, aesthetically as well as
practically, is an understatement of epic proportions. In a city filled with historic tourist
attractions its ballpark has become the biggest one of them all. More than a quarter of a
million people a year pour through its gates on paid tours alone, to say nothing of the
three million or so who show up there to watch ballgames. It has become baseball’s
crown jewel - and a cash cow.
From a business point of view that half billions dollars was money well spent.
Larry Lucchino was already on the path to great success in life when Edward Bennett
Williams chose him to be general counsel to the Washington Redskins; he had by that
time gone from the streets of Pittsburgh to Princeton, then to Yale Law School, and he
had already made partner at one of Washington’s most pretigious law firms. But who
could have imagined, forty years ago, that his great legacy would be the ballparks he
builit and restored?
This does not even touch upon his other accomplishments. After all, how many guys do
you know who have four World Series rings (Orioles, ’83; Red Sox, ’04, ’07 and ’13), a
Super Bowl ring (Redskins, ’82) and a Final Four watch (Princeton, ‘65)?
And he’s not done yet. As chairman and co-owner of the Pawtuccket Red Sox he has
committed to building a new ballpark for that team, either in Pawtucket, if the Rhode
Island legislature agrees, or elsewhere, maybe Worcester. Whereever it is, you can be
sure that it’ll be a very special place.
A HYMN TO LARRY
(Tune of “When You and I Were Young”
I wandered today to the park, Larry,
My gosh, the place looks great.
And on it you have left your mark, Larry,
The changes have all turned out first rate.
The Green Monster seats in left field, Larry,
The EMC Club behind home plate,
They not only have a great feel, Larry,
They all mean more money at the gate.
You’ve sold a few ads in the place, Larry,
And they bring in more bread.
If you’re looking for more ad space, Larry,
Just sell the top of Pedroia’s head.
Your eye’s on the old bottom line, Larry,
And for that John Henry sends his thanks.
Oh gee, everything would be fine, Larry,
If we could just beat the bleeping Yanks.