Hall of Fame executive Lee MacPhail dead at 95

Thursday evening, Lee MacPhail passed away at his Florida home. At 95, he was baseball's oldest living Hall of Famer. From the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum's press release:

Born Oct. 25, 1917 in Nashville, Tenn., MacPhail was the son of another Hall of Fame executive, Larry MacPhail, making them the only father-son duo in Cooperstown. MacPhail followed in his father's footsteps by serving as a front office executive in baseball for 45 years.


Beginning with the Yankees in 1949, MacPhail served as the Farm Director and Player Personnel Director for 10 years, building a system that led the team to seven World Series Championships and nine pennants during his tenure.

In 1959, he became the general manager for the Baltimore Orioles, laying the groundwork for the 1966 World Series Championship team as well as one of the most successful franchises in the modern era.

After a brief stint in the Commissioner's Office -- which led to an Executive of the Year award, courtesy of The Sporting News -- MacPhail returned to the Yankees, serving as general manager from 1967 through 1973. The Yankees never reached the postseason in those years, but he did help the franchise rebound from three straight losing seasons.

MacPhail's last big job was American League President when that job still meant something, from 1974 through '83. Perhaps most famously, he issued the ruling over the Pine Tar Game. From MacPhail's 1989 memoir, My Nine Innings:

For me this was not a difficult decision. As I regularly attended meetings of the Rules Committee, I knew the intent of the rule the umpire cited in calling Brett out. The intent of the rule was to curtail the excessive use of pine tar and to stop it from getting on the baseball. The rule provided that the bat be cleaned up or not used. As pine tar did not affect the way the ball traveled after it was hit, it was not the intention of the rule makers to nullify such a hit once it had occurred. The intent was simply to provide a means of eliminating excessive pine tar. I was also cognizant of other league decisions with respect to pine tar on the bat that provided a precedent for my ruling. Making decisions of this nature was part of the job. No bad hop here. What followed the decisions, however, was wrong, inappropriate, and definitely qualifies as a "bad hop."

What followed, essentially, was that George Steinbrenner pitched a fit. But of course, when Steinbrenner pitched a fit, that meant public insults, court battles, and everything in between. Ultimately, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn actually fined Steinbrenner $300,000 -- when that was still a lot of money, at least in baseball -- for his beastly behavior.

In 1998, Lee MacPhail was elected to the Hall of Fame. His son Andy won two World Championships as general manager of the Minnesota Twins (in 1987 and '91) and later ran the Cubs and Orioles.

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