Red Sox's Lucchino remembered for transforming Fenway Park and team

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Red Sox Executive Vice President Charles Steinberg, left, President/CEO Larry Lucchino, center, and Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein in 2003. (Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Red Sox Executive Vice President Charles Steinberg, left, President/CEO Larry Lucchino, center, and Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein in 2003. (Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The Red Sox and their fans lost a key member of their championship-winning front office today.

Former team president, CEO and co-owner Larry Lucchino died at the age of 78 after being in failing health in recent months.

Lucchino led the Sox during a historic run that included three World Series championships, including the one that broke an 86-year drought in 2004.

At a Fenway Park rally celebrating the 2013 championship — during a painful time in Boston following the marathon bombing and after the Sox had ended the previous season in last place in their division — Lucchino called the win special.

"Going from worst to first is always an exciting process," he said. "But ... we would like to say thank you to our fans. You were with us through the dark hours, and you're with us now. The loyalty and passion of the Red Sox fan is second to none in all of baseball. So thank you very, very, very much."

Lucchino is known for helping to save Fenway Park from being demolished or turned into a museum.

In more recent years, he served as chairman of the Jimmy Fund, a Sox charity that raises money for Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Lucchino's former colleague and friend, Charles Steinberg, was executive vice president of the Sox. Before that, he and Lucchino worked together with the Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres. Now, Steinberg is president of the Worcester Red Sox, known as the WooSox. The team held a moment of silence for Lucchino at Tuesday's Opening Day game.

Steinberg spoke with WBUR's All Things Considered host Lisa Mullins about Lucchino.

Interview Highlights

On visiting with Lucchino Saturday, just a few days before he passed away:

"We knew that he was in decline. His heart was giving out. Note, because he would want it noted, that he successfully battled cancer four times. Cancer did not take his life. So he goes down undefeated in four bouts with cancer over 39 years. But his heart had weakened, and he very peacefully passed away a little bit after midnight."

On what they talked about:

"I kept it baseball, because he was sleeping most of the time, but I nonetheless wanted to fill him with good thoughts. And I will tell you the last conversation. He had been asleep for about forty minutes or so. And I said, 'Look, Larry, you've got to know that Camden Yards [in Baltmore] is filling up every night. Petco Park [in San Diego] is filling up every night. Fenway Park is still a gem. Jet Blue Park [in Fort Myers, Florida] just had a great spring training. And Polar Park, here in Worcester, is sold out for opening day and was voted best ballpark in Triple-A [baseball]. So you're five for five.' And with that, he opened his eyes, turned to me, had half a smile and said, 'Five for five? That's pretty good.' And with that, he closed his eyes, and those were the last six words that he got to say, or I got to hear from him."

On Lucchino's legacy of transforming and building ballparks: 

"He was the driver of five ballpark projects that transformed five geographical areas. Oriole Park at Camden Yards was his idea. And it just changed Baltimore and changed its self esteem. ... After that, Larry made a new ballpark in San Diego ... Petco Park ... and then it was time to go to Boston. And I said, 'Are we going to build a new park there?' To which he exclaimed, 'You don't destroy the Mona Lisa! You preserve the Mona Lisa!' And he and [architect and MLB executive] Janet Marie Smith engaged upon 10 years of brilliant renovations to protect and enhance and save Fenway Park. Then it was time to build a new spring training home for the Red Sox in Fort Myers in Lee County, Florida. And that's Jet Blue Park. And unexpectedly, we had a fifth baby in the family. Larry made the bold decision to move the Boston Red Sox Triple-A ball club to Worcester, Massachusetts. And it's a great baseball town ... and this is where Polar Park was built. And Larry was as proud of the baby as of any of the other progeny that he was able to create."

On Lucchino being known as tenacious and impatient:

"You didn't want to go up against him. What you wanted was to recognize that Larry Lucchino was ... ferociously loyal. And if he was representing you, you had no better advocate; but your adversaries might shake in their boots. ... Larry was competitive to a merit. He also won a Super Bowl ring and played in the [NCAA basketball] Final Four for Princeton. He was a sportsman ... and he was going to do anything he could to win."

On how much credit Lucchino should get for helping to lead the team that finally broke the Curse of the Bambino in 2004:

"Larry deserves an enormous amount of credit, because when we moved from Baltimore to San Diego, we took some bright young people with us, including young Theo Epstein [who became Sox general manager]. And when you put Larry and Theo together in Boston, that was one heck of a winning combination. When you put Larry together with Sam Kennedy, [first a Sox vice president and now president and CEO], ... you had a brilliant win. ... But Larry built a team that we honed city to city and brought to Boston. And it was that team, it was that band of brothers and sisters, that got together with [co-owners] John Henry and Tom Werner and accomplished so much. There was no one person, but Larry was the leader of the band."

This segment aired on April 2, 2024.


Headshot of Lisa Mullins

Lisa Mullins Host, All Things Considered
Lisa Mullins is the voice of WBUR’s All Things Considered. She anchors the program, conducts interviews and reports from the field.


Headshot of Lynn Jolicoeur

Lynn Jolicoeur Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.



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