The game of baseball lost its oldest living Hall of Fame member this week. Lee MacPhail, who wore several different hats as a baseball executive during his 45 years in the game, passed away Thursday night from natural causes at his home in Deltry Beach, FL. He was 95 years old.
To say Lee MacPhail saw and did it all during his career might be an understatement. That career began as an employee of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early 1940s.
By the end of the decade, MacPhail had joined his father, Larry, who now co-owned the New York Yankees as their farm director. After playing his part in the Yankees seven world championships over the next decade, he moved on to a new challenge with the Baltimore Orioles, first as their general manager first, and in later years their team president.
In 1974, MacPhail left the front office for good after he was voted American League President. Just prior to that in 1973, he was an influential voice in the movement to institute the designated hitter. During his time as AL President, he oversaw the expansion in 1977 that brought the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays into the league. And perhaps most famously, he's the man who upheld the Kansas City Royals protest of the "Pine Tar" game at Yankee Stadium.
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.
Younger baseball fans are probably more familiar with Lee's son, Andy MacPhail, who has served as general manager for the Minneosta Twins and Chicago Cubs, and later as the President of Baseball Operations for the Orioles. However, what they may not realize is Lee's father, Larry MacPhail, was a pioneer and a visionary. In fact, he was the man behind Major League Baseball's first night game at Cincinnati's Crosley Field on May 24, 1935.
In 1978, Larry was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, meaning the MacPhails are the first and only father-son duo with plaques in Cooperstown.
''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.''