‘Truly irreplaceable’: Larry Lucchino, who helped lead Red Sox to 3 World Series titles, dead at 78

BOSTON — Larry Lucchino, the former president of the Boston Red Sox who helped the club vanquish the proverbial “curse of the Bambino” in 2004, has died at the age of 78.

Lucchino, a Red Sox Hall of Famer, served as the club’s president during a historic 14-year run of success from 2002 through 2015, during which the club won three World Series championships in 2004, 2007, and 2013.

“Larry’s career unfolded like a playbook of triumphs, marked by transformative moments that reshaped ballpark design, enhanced the fan experience, and engineered the ideal conditions for championships wherever his path led him, and especially in Boston,” Red Sox Principal Owner John Henry said in a statement. “Yet, perhaps his most enduring legacy lies in the remarkable people he helped assemble at the Red Sox, all of whom are a testament to his training, wisdom, and mentorship. Many of them continue to shape the organization today, carrying forward the same vigor, vitality, and cherished sayings that were hallmarks of Larry’s personality. Larry was a formidable opponent in any arena, and while he battled hard, he always maintained the utmost respect for a worthy adversary and found genuine joy in sparring with people. I was lucky enough to have had him in my corner for 14 years and to have called him a close friend for even longer. He was truly irreplaceable and will be missed by all of us at the Red Sox.”

Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner added, “When John and I joined forces with Larry in 2001, we dreamed not only of breaking an 86-year curse and winning multiple Championships but also about how a baseball team could transform and uplift a region. Larry was more decorated in sports than any of us, coming to the group with a Super Bowl ring, a World Series ring, and even a Final Four watch from his days playing basketball at Princeton. He added to that impressive collection with us in Boston because he was the kind of man who would find a path to success no matter the obstacles. He was bold and had the audacity to dare, challenge, and even taunt our rivals in ways that made the game of baseball better. In a sport defined by statistics and standings, he was accomplished in every way, and while his career is a masterclass in leadership and innovation, he will be equally remembered for his unwavering commitment to community engagement and his hands-on role with the Red Sox Foundation and The Jimmy Fund. We are devasted by the loss of a great man, a great leader, and a great friend.”

“There are so many of us who were given our start in baseball by Larry,” Red Sox President & CEO Sam Kennedy added. “He loved a good slogan and his campaign to ‘free the Brookline two’ liberated Theo and I from the San Diego Padres, allowing us to work for our hometown team and changing the trajectory of our lives forever. He instilled in us, and so many others, a work ethic, passion, competitive fire that we will carry forever. His legacy is one that all of us who were taught by him feel a deep responsibility to uphold. When those he mentored moved on from the Red Sox, he would always say ‘we’ll leave a light on for you.’ The lights will always be on for you at Fenway Park, Larry. May you rest in peace.”

The Red Sox also issued a statement on behalf of the Lucchino family, which read in part, “We are heartbroken to share that our beloved brother and uncle, Lawrence Lucchino, passed away on April 2 surrounded by his family. The Lucchino family wishes to thank his friends and caregivers who, over the past few months, have surrounded him with love, laughter, and happy memories.”

Lucchino, who was a three-time cancer survivor, died early Tuesday morning of congenital heart failure. His death was confirmed by his family and the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox, where he had most recently been the primary owner and chairman — the last project in a career that was also linked to three major league baseball franchises and one in the NFL.

“Larry leaves behind a giant baseball legacy full of historic accomplishments with three different organizations,” said Theo Epstein, who worked for Lucchino in Baltimore, San Diego and Boston — the latter when he became the youngest general manager to that point in baseball history. “For me and for so many of my best friends in baseball, Larry gave us our start, believing in us and setting an enduring example with his work ethic, vision, competitiveness and fearlessness. He made a profound impact on many in baseball — and on the game itself — and will be missed.”

Ex-Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said Lucchino’s combative exterior camouflaged a caring friend.

“My heart goes out to the Lucchino family. They lost not only a great man, but a visionary with the biggest heart,” said Martinez, who was the ace of the pitching staff that led Boston to the 2004 World Series title. “Even though he tried to cover it playing shy and trying to hide away from people’s eyes … but not me; he didn’t fool me.”

Under Lucchino’s leadership, Fenway Park underwent a series of modernized enhancements, Boston established the Major League Baseball record for consecutive sellouts and he created the Red Sox Foundation, a philanthropic powerhouse.

Lucchino purchased the Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston’s longtime Triple-A affiliate, in 2015 and had served as chairman and principal owner of the Worcester Red Sox.

After exhausting all options to keep the club in Rhode Island, Lucchino secured the franchise’s New England future with a commitment in 2018 that will keep the WooSox in Massachusetts for decades.

Lucchino was also chairman of the Jimmy Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which helped to save his life on three occasions.

Lucchino first overcame non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1985 and then prostate cancer in 2000, before starting cancer treatment in the kidney area starting in 2019.

In August 2023, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute presented Lucchino with the Boston Red Sox Jimmy Fund Award for his help in raising $142 million over the years.

Before making the move to the Red Sox organization, Lucchino served as president of the Baltimore Orioles from 1988-93 and president of the San Diego Padres from 1995-2001.

Lucchino was instrumental in bringing together Principal Owner John Henry, Chairman Tom Werner, and their partners, who purchased the Red Sox, Fenway Park, and 80 percent of NESN in December 2001.

The Red Sox in Lucchino’s tenure played October Baseball seven times in 14 years. In 2004, the club did what had never been done before, overcoming a 3-0 deficit against the archrival New York Yankees, whom Lucchino famously dubbed “the Evil Empire” to win the pennant and eventually a World Series title.

Lucchino also holds honorary degrees from Suffolk University, Boston University, Bryant University, New England School of Law, Anna Maria College, Palomar College, the University of Massachusetts Boston, Bentley University, and Assumption University.

WATCH LIVE: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute speaking after death of Larry Lucchino, who battled cancer multiple times.

WATCH LIVE: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute speaking after the death of longtime Red Sox President Larry Lucchino, who battled cancer multiple times.

Posted by Boston 25 News on Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW