COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) - Lee MacPhail, the longtime baseball executive who ruled in the celebrated Pine Tar case and later became part of the only father-son Hall of Fame pairing, has died. He was 95.
He was the oldest Hall of Famer, and he died Thursday night at his home in Delray Beach, Fla., the shrine said Friday.
“There’s not much I haven’t done off the field other than commissioner,” he said during a 1985 interview with The Associated Press when he retired after 4 1-2 decades in the sport.
In the second generation of one of baseball’s most prominent families _ his son, Andy, also was in the front office for several teams _ MacPhail’s most well-known moment in baseball came in 1983. He upheld Kansas City’s protest in the Pine Tar Game against the New York Yankees, restoring a ninth-inning home run to Royals slugger George Brett _ also a future Hall of Famer.
“Lee MacPhail was one of the great executives in baseball history and a Hall of Famer in every sense, both personally and professionally,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “His hallmarks were dignity, common sense and humility. He was not only a remarkable league executive, but was a true baseball man.”
With MacPhail’s death, Bobby Doerr at 94 becomes the oldest living Hall of Famer.
“Baseball history has lost a great figure in Lee MacPhail, whose significant impact on the game spanned five decades,” Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark said. “He will always be remembered in Cooperstown as a man of exemplary kindness and a man who always looked after the best interests of the game.”
“Over his lifetime in baseball, Lee made many significant contributions that helped to make the game what it is today,” former players’ union head Don Fehr said.
Said union founding executive director Marvin Miller: “Lee was a good man, trustworthy and honest, and I had a decent relationship with him over the years.”
Born Leland Stanford MacPhail Jr. in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 25, 1917, he was general manager at minor league Reading, went on to work for the Yankees in 1949 and spent a decade as farm director and player personnel director, with players he developed winning seven World Series titles.
He moved to the Baltimore Orioles as general manager in 1959 and six years later returned to New York as chief administrative assistant for new baseball Commissioner Spike Eckert. He returned to the Yankees as general manager from 1967-73, and left after George Steinbrenner bought the team to become AL president in 1974.
A member of management’s labor negotiating team along with NL President Chub Feeney during the 1981 midseason strike, he also headed the AL when it added the designated hitter for the 1973 season and expanded to Seattle and Toronto for 1977.
After he stepped down as league president following the 1983 season, he served two years as president of the owners’ Player Relations Committee, overseeing bargaining during a two-day strike in 1985. He was elected to the Hall as an executive in 1998, 20 years after his father.
In the famed Pine Tar case, MacPhail overruled plate umpire Tim McClelland and crew chief Joe Brinkman and restored a home run to Brett. After Yankees manager Billy Martin argued that Brett’s bat had excessive pine tar when he hit a two-run, ninth-inning homer at Yankees Stadium on July 24, McClelland called Brett out, the final out in a 4-3 New York victory.