The list of baseball families grows longer every year in the player ranks, but among executives there have been few, and fewer truly successful ones. Born in 1917, Lee MacPhail could not have been more different than his father, Larry, in personality, experience, or vision, but both made their marks on the game. And they are the first father-son tandem elected to the Hall of Fame. Lee's son, Andy, the third generation of MacPhail baseball leadership, seems to take after his father more than his granddad.
Larry MacPhail was a legend-a boisterous, mercurial character with a huge voice and an ego to match. When he joined the Cincinnati Reds in 1934, he had precious little knowledge of the game's inner workings. In comparison, Lee was gentlemanly and soft-spoken. By the time Lee took a major-league job, he had years of experience in building minor-league operations.
After he graduated from Swarthmore College, Lee became business manager of the minor-league Reading ballclub in 1941. He moved on to posts with International League Toronto, as general manager, and then to Kansas City, then the Yankees' top farm team in the American Association. MacPhail rose through the Yankee organization, from Midwest farm director to co-farm director to director of player personnel. Lee joined the Orioles as their general manager in 1958 and became the team's president in 1960, a post he held for five years.
After being named The Sporting News Executive of the Year in 1966, Lee returned to the Yankees. He served as their general manager through 1973, when he was elected president of the American League, a post he held for 10 years. During his tenure as the AL's top man, MacPhail oversaw new expansion-into Seattle and his old haunt of Toronto-and the introduction of the designated hitter.
But two events stand out in memory. In the first, he took over negotiating duties for the owners with the players during the 1981 strike when management's "hired gun," Ray Grebey, was ineffective. MacPhail, because of his forthright, let's-get-it-done manner, is largely given credit for settling the 50-day strike. The other event can be summed up in a famous photograph: MacPhail holding the bat George Brett used in the "pine-tar incident" of 1985. MacPhail stated that the umpire had incorrectly applied the rule. The game was replayed from that point.
In 1984, MacPhail resigned as league president to take over the top job of the major-league players relations committee, as the owners' rep in negotiations. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
As general manager of the Orioles, MacPhail orchestrated one of the greatest trades ever made. After the 1965 season, he suckered Frank Robinson out of the Reds for pitcher Milt Pappas and two nondescript players. The following season, Robinson won the AL Triple Crown and led Baltimore to its first-ever American League pennant.
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