- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 4, 2015


There may not be a sports executive in America who has had a more impressive career over the past 50 years than Larry Lucchino, who reportedly is stepping down as president and CEO of the Boston Red Sox at the end of the year.

He is believed to be the only man in America with World Series rings, a Super Bowl ring and a watch from the NCAA Final Four.

This is not an obituary for Lucchino’s career. He said in a statement released by the club that he will have a new role with reduced responsibilities. But this is a moment to step back and recognize the impact the hard-nosed kid from Pittsburgh had on baseball.

He changed the game.

Lucchino, who will be 70 next month, collected three of those World Series rings in Boston, one of the trio of owners who broke the Curse of the Bambino with championships in 2004, 2007 and 2013. His earned his first ring with the Baltimore Orioles in 1983.

His Super Bowl ring came courtesy of the Washington Redskins that same season, 1983, making him perhaps the only executive to collect both in the same year. The Pittsburgh native’s storied sports career started as an athlete, a member of that famous 1966 Princeton basketball team that featured Hall of Famer Bill Bradley.

His move from the basketball court to the front office happened courtesy of legendary Washington trial lawyer Edward Bennett Williams, who owned both the Redskins and the Orioles. Lucchino, a Yale Law School graduate and classmate of Hillary Clinton, began working for Williams’ law firm and soon became the great lawyer’s right-hand man in his sports ventures.

But championship rings and watches don’t measure the impact of Lucchino on the business of sports, particularly baseball, over the past 25 years. He was the driving force behind the design of Camden Yards, which began an era of new ballparks that changed baseball.

Former commissioner Bud Selig once called the development of Camden Yards “the most dramatic event in sports in the past 25 years.”

Lucchino went on, as owner and president of the San Diego Padres, to lay the groundwork for the retro-style Petco Park, and then lead that franchise to its only National League pennant.

Ironically, though, perhaps his greatest triumph came in finding a way to preserve the original that was the model for the retro ballpark era — Fenway Park, a place that his mentor, Williams, loved.

As one of the owners of the Red Sox, Lucchino recognized the treasure of Boston and found creative ways to upgrade the 100-year old ballpark experience, including the now-famous seats on top of the Green Monster — and, by the way, win three World Series titles for a team that hadn’t won since 1918.

“I knew how much Ed revered the Red Sox, going back to his childhood days in Hartford,” Lucchino told me in 2009. “I never thought I would wind up there, but I love Boston. It is a great city, a real American city. It is one of the best places in the nation for a baseball executive to work. They love their Red Sox, they love Fenway Park, and they love their history and heritage.”

I always thought Lucchino would wind up in Washington as part of the city’s reunion with baseball. It turned out he played an indirect role in the Montreal Expos relocating to Washington. He was part of the group, including John Henry and Tom Werner, that purchased the Red Sox in 2002, which set in motion the three-franchise swap that resulted in Expos owner Jeffrey Loria purchasing the then-Florida Marlins from Henry and Major League Baseball, in turn, buying the Expos from Loria, setting the stage for the move to Washington three years later.

“Looking back on it now, it proved to be a very successful set of moves by baseball,” Lucchino told me in 2012. “They ended up with a potentially successful franchise in Washington with a huge upside, a progressive ownership group in Boston, and the Marlins have a new lease on life with a brand new ballpark.”

From coast to coast — San Diego to Boston, and locally both in Baltimore and Washington — Lucchino’s impact can be felt. I don’t know what the next chapter is him, but I can tell you what one of those chapters will be ­— Cooperstown, as the most influential baseball executive and owner of his time.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

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