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Remembering Larry Lucchino, Eulogy by Dr. Charles Steinberg

April 18, 2024

On Thursday, April 11, the city of Boston, the greater New England area, and the entire world of professional baseball joined together to honor and remember Larry Lucchino. At St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church, Lucchino's long-time friend and business partner Dr. Charles Steinberg delivered an inspiring and emotional eulogy that

On Thursday, April 11, the city of Boston, the greater New England area, and the entire world of professional baseball joined together to honor and remember Larry Lucchino. At St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church, Lucchino's long-time friend and business partner Dr. Charles Steinberg delivered an inspiring and emotional eulogy that expertly encapsulated Larry as both colleague, and family.

The eulogy can be found at 1:08:15 in this video clip from Boston 25 News. The text can be found below.

I don’t know about you, but the Lucchino that I first met was warm, kind, even-tempered, and quite a gentleman. And I guess that’s because the Lucchino that I first met was Frank Lucchino.

Yes, way back in January of 1980, after I came off the beach in Aruba, my mother of blessed memory called me over. She said, “Do you know a man named Larry Lucchino?”

I said, “Well I know he’s the right hand man of our new Orioles owner, Edward Bennett Williams, but I haven’t met him yet.”

“Well he’s my kid brother. I’m Frank Lucchino, and this is my wife, Bobbie.”

And that is how I met my first Lucchino.

Well, one day, about six months later, in my 5th year as a perpetual Baltimore Orioles intern, the longtime executives were worrying and scurrying because they heard that visiting our offices was this aggressive, abrasive, high-powered, Ivy-League Washington lawyer. They were shuddering.

Unfazed because I was soon going to be starting dental school, I walked down the hall as two men approached me.

“Frank!”

“Charles!”

“Meet my kid brother, Larry.”

And that’s how I met Larry Lucchino: in a social context—without fear of his powerful position. He was just Frank’s brother to me.

And that set the stage for a relationship filled with candor, humor, and a repartee of mental ping pong. I wasn’t afraid of him. You see, I was well-prepared for the personality of Larry Lucchino. Because I was the statistician to the Orioles legendary Manager, peppery Hall of Famer Earl Weaver, and Larry Lucchino was Earl Weaver in a suit—with a better vocabulary.

A growl and a bark did not necessarily mean they were mad; they just sounded that way. It was just passion coming from a narrow tube. And both were intense, fiery, urgent, and determined to win. And both had another crucial quality in common: they were ferociously loyal.

Now Larry used to muse that he only ever had one good idea. And when he told it to me in October of 1986, during a World Series game we were watching on television at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, I thought he was wrong and a little bit crazy. I had said, “You really think you’re going to build a new stadium?”

“No!” he barked. “We’re going to build two new stadiums! One for baseball and one for football.”

I said, “Larry, there’s no appetite in Baltimore even for one stadium much less two! You can take your Princeton undergrad and Yale Law School degrees…I’m from Baltimore; I know!”

“You’ll see! You’ll see! There’s a big difference between a ballpark and a stadium. A ballpark is irregular, asymmetrical, idiosyncratic, with angles and corners and nooks and crannies. A stadium is large, symmetrical, generic, and multipurpose.

“A ballpark is cozy, not crowded; intimate, not intimidating; colloquial, not colossal.”

Why this passion? He loved his native Pittsburgh and the downtown of his youth. He said it had everything a kid could ask for: a ballpark, a library, a park, a Y, and pizza. And that’s where he fell in love with downtowns and with downtown ballparks. When Forbes Field was destroyed and replaced with a concrete cookie cutter, it created a wound that refused to heal.

And that’s why he famously said he wanted “a traditional, old-fashioned downtown ballpark with modern amenities.” It became a mantra. And he fined us $5 for using the “S” word. We never said stadium again.

And with a 30-year lease crafted together with Lon Babby and Maureen Cannon, baseball was saved in Baltimore. And when Larry Lucchino brought on Janet Marie Smith, Rodgers met Hammerstein and a new era of ballpark ambiance and architecture had begun.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards was a national phenomenon that had mayors flying in, saying, “I want one of these!” There are now more than 100 descendants in Major League and Minor League Baseball. American downtowns have been the beneficiaries. He was right and I was wrong. I now had the zeal of the convert.

So in 1994, when John Moores sought to buy the San Diego Padres and build a new ballpark, he heard, “You want Larry Lucchino.”

And that was the birth of one of the most enjoyable relationships—and periods—in Larry’s life.

He was off to La Jolla. And so were we.

Like immigrants moving from the old country to the new world, a host of Orioles followed the leader to San Diego. These Orioles transplants slept on each other’s floors, lived near each other, helped each other get settled, and gathered together on Larry’s living room floor on Larry’s 50th birthday, September 6, 1995, as together, we watched on TV as Cal Ripken broke an unbreakable record, 3,000 miles and a lifetime away, at our old home, Camden Yards.

We were transforming from colleagues to family.

Fred Uhlman and Louie Ruvane; Ron Bumgarner and Baker Koppelman; Sandy Gonzalez and Theo Epstein. And we were joined by Rochester’s Glenn Geffner, Baltimorean Mike Dee, and Theo’s high school chum, Sam Kennedy. And we developed a host of new friends, all of us nurtured by Larry’s better half, the unforgettable Jay Emmett.

When we moved to San Diego, I found an apartment that I loved, but I had to have Larry check it out before I would sign a lease. He was now a second father to me. We arranged to meet this older, polite, La Jolla real estate lady on a Saturday afternoon.

We arrived, but her key was no longer unlocking the door. She struggled for awhile, testing Larry’s patience, which was in short supply.

Finally, she turned to us, “Well, I can show it to you Monday.”

“Monday!” he said. “Monday? It takes you 48 hours to get on the other side of a door?! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, we’re from the East. We’re from the East. We believe in getting things done. We believe there’s always a way. Come on, Charles, let’s go to work. On a Saturday.”

That poor lady. I don’t think she ever recovered.

That was the kind of attitude for which Larry could be both praised and criticized. Yes, he was an acquired taste.

But he relished hard work, long hours, and the passionate pursuit of excellence.

Larry barked positives: He wouldn’t say, “You’re no good” or “You’re terrible,” not to his teammates, at least. He would say, “Think! We’re better than that! We believe there’s always a way! We have high standards! And often, “We’re in the Yes business!”

One day, our switchboard operator in San Diego called to ask if fans allowed to walk on the field before the game.

“No, Carmina, they’re not.”

A minute later my phone rings. It says Larry Lucchino calling.

“What business are we in?!”

“What?”

“What business are we in?!”

“Uh, baseball?”

“We’re in the Yes business!!!! Why did you tell that mother and her little girl who came into the lobby that she couldn’t step on the warning track during batting practice?!

I didn’t know that was the question.

“Surely, with your 63 interns down there, you could find someone to take them to the field. We want fans. We need fans. We’re in the Yes business!”

Deceptively positive, was Lucchino.

When the internet was soaring, and people were buying tickets on line, colleagues advocated the cessation of ordering by phone.

“Wait a minute! What about the people who don’t yet use the internet?”

“Larry, 83 percent of sales are now on line.”

“Yeah, well my mother, Rose Lucchino, is one of the 17 percent. Don’t tell me about percentages, tell me about people.”

Deceptively compassionate was Lucchino.

On the baseball side, he was an accomplished negotiator who inspired dread among many agents—because they were his adversaries, not his teammates. For teammates, he loved those who might complement his skill set.

And that was Kevin Towers, our General Manager in San Diego. They were great together. A gregarious teddy bear, Kevin had what Larry called “a talent for talent,” and together, they won the National League West Championship in 1996 and the National League pennant in 1998. Larry carried that National League Trophy around San Diego the way a mother clutches her newborn baby, except he let everyone hold this baby as well. He did it day after day, right through the vote for a new ballpark. We won in a landslide, 60-40.

And that’s why you have gorgeous Petco Park, a downtown ballpark that looks and feels like San Diego, with plants and flowers and trees. He introduced bougainvillea into my botanical vocabulary.

That experience in Baltimore and San Diego prepared Larry for the biggest challenge of all—joining the Boston Red Sox.

I innocently asked, “Are we going to build a new ballpark in Boston?”

“What?! You don’t destroy the Mona Lisa! You preserve the Mona Lisa!”

I’m a little slow.

Larry joined Tom Werner, whom he already knew and liked from our days in San Diego, and when John Henry joined, an unbeatable ownership team was assembled. Larry was awestruck by John’s intellect, vision, and steely resolve. So with profound support—financial and intellectual—from John Henry and Tom Werner, and with cooperation from Mayor Tom Menino, whom Larry really loved, 10 years of improvements saved Fenway Park and made it America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.

Larry loved that ballpark with a passion. He loved cleaning it between games of a double header. He loved inspecting it the night before Opening Day, walking the concourse and moving trashcans right up against nearby pillars. “We fight for inches!,” he said. And yes, we enjoyed sell outs—820 in a row—for 10 years.

Concurrently, Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein, whose combined intellect may be the highest in baseball history, wrote a new chapter in the social and cultural history of New England.

After Larry dubbed the New York Yankees “The Evil Empire,” one columnist criticized him for poking the bear. Larry wanted to poke the bear. The last 4 numbers of his cell phone were 2-2-2-2 to remember that the Red Sox had been second fiddle and the goal was to topple the empire.

And topple it we did.

Then, after we won the 2004 World Series, the White House called to invite us to be honored. We figured out a date in March that would work. However, Larry bellowed, “We are NOT taking the team up from Spring Training to the White House and flying back the same day---without doing something more meaningful while we’re up there!”

We stared blankly.

“We could visit Walter Reed and see the soldiers. We could go to Bethesda Naval Hospital and see the sailors.”

And so we did. And it was so impactful to the players on that team, to our staff, that when we won the World Series again in 2007, they wen there again. And after that visit, Tom Werner, moved by what he saw, said, “We have to do more.” And that’s why you now have the sensational Home Base Program that treats Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a revolutionary manner.

Larry took ideas and turned them into reality, thanks to passion, perseverance, and exceptional intellectual resourcefulness. Yes, there’s always a way.

Think of the soldiers, or think of those battling cancer, or children trying to afford college. Think of how they and so many others have benefitted from the foundations that Larry and his partners started at every one of his clubs.

Think of 2013, as the Red Sox carried a wounded city to yet another World Series championship. He tried to hide his heart, but he couldn’t hide its actions.

He was openly soft with those battling cancer, which brought out his greatest level of empathy. He would call the brilliant Dr. Lee Nadler to get care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, to which Larry was so grateful and so devoted as Chairman of the Jimmy Fund. Dr. Nadler saved Larry’s life for 39 years with multiple bouts with cancer, and in truth, there was some measure of satisfaction inside the pathologically competitive Lucchino at the end that he defeated cancer every time. His big heart ultimately weakened, but he beat cancer every time. Thank you, Dr. Nadler.

Still wanting to build ballparks, he plunged into Spring Training, and he loved that JetBlue Park was Fenway on the inside, Florida on the outside—with sexy roofs. He loved working so productively on it with Jonathan Gilula and a host of Red Sox colleagues whom he really loved.

With 6 pennants, 5 World Series, 5 ballpark projects, and 4 foundations, Larry Lucchino will be enshrined in Cooperstown, with Janet Marie Smith by his side. Larry Lucchino and Janet Marie Smith changed the social and cultural history of American downtowns through ballparks. And what a credit that is to baseball.

Larry’s epilogue was in Worcester, where he boldly moved the Red Sox Triple A club, even though he loved Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, who I appreciate seeing here today. But he loved Worcester, too, and he loved and its leaders: Mayor Petty, who’s here, City Manager Ed Augustus, the City Councilors, and he loved Polar Park, the baby of his and Janet Marie’s ballpark family: a compact, urban downtown ballpark that looks and feels and smells and tastes like Worcester.

And yes, there he was, the night before the first Opening Day, walking into every women’s restroom stall, inspecting the back of each door to make sure it had a hook for a purse. A bit compulsive, in a good way. And yes, Polar Park was yet another successful catalyst for redevelopment.

Worcester residents stopped Larry on the street; they stopped him in the ballpark and openly thanked him for choosing their city and building a beautiful ballpark. He was moved.

I said, “Larry, it’s like Dorothy has arrived in Munchkinland.”

“Could you come up with a more masculine metaphor!?”

Ah, the tough guy. Always the tough guy.

He made no apologies for the bumps and bruises and abrasions on the road to accomplishment; he thought they were inevitable parts of competition, on and off the field.

But the following words from his high school classmate, Chuck Cohen, stay with me:

He said, “Remember: Larry Lucchino is the toughest…softie you’ll ever meet.”

That’s why he loved those recent visits as the end of days grew near from Jonathan Gilula, from Adam and Candy Grossman, Matt Levin, and especially, from Alex Edelman. And in a class reserved for the holy and the saints, Barbara Bianucci and Fay Scheer. Just amazing care and patience and love, decade after decade, right to the end.

So as I sat there a week ago Saturday, March 30, as he lay on the sofa, he acknowledged my arrival, watched some video on my phone from a fun Polar Park Easter Egg Hunt, then closed his eyes for about the next 40 minutes. I added some positive words while he was sleeping, but got no response.

When I knew it was time to leave, I said, “By the way, Larry, you have to know: Camden Yards is filling up every day. Petco Park is filling up every day. Fenway Park is filling up and is still a beautiful gem; JetBlue Park just had a great Spring Training, and Polar Park is sold out for Opening Day and was voted Best Ballpark in Triple A. So you’re 5 for 5…”

He opened his eyes, turned to me, smiled half a smile, and said, “Five for five? That’s pretty good.”

He closed his eyes, and those were our last words.

Rest in peace, Larry Lucchino.