Friday, November 9, 2012

The Life of Lee MacPhail

Leland Stanford MacPhail, Jr.
October 25, 1917-November 8, 2012

Larry MacPhail's relationship with Leo Durocher is legendary.  Someone once said of Larry: "With no drinks he was brilliant.  With one he was a genius, with two he was insane.  He rarely stopped at two."

As the baseball legends go, MacPhail would routinely call Durocher after a few drinks, argue over who was pitching or not playing or not hitting, the conversation would get heated and one of two things would happen:  Durocher would quit or Durocher would get fired.  The next morning MacPhail would call Durocher to find out what pitcher he was planning to start that day or when he was stopping by the office to discuss player personnel.  It was a routine

Like most baseball legends these stories are quite likely exaggerated.  It's unlikely that a man like MacPhail could be that erratic and still be as successful as he was. 

In 1941 Larry made one of his best hiring decisions.  He chose Leland Stanford MacPhail, Jr to run the Brooklyn farm team in Reading, PA.  The Dodgers organization bought the Reading franchise, as the story goes, for two reasons:  Carl Furillo and the air conditioned bus.  The Reading Brooks were in the Dodgers organization for one year, long enough for Lee MacPhail to get Furillo ready for the majors and to acquisition the bus.

It would be hard to imagine that the one year in Reading taught Lee everything he needed to know but he certainly learned quickly.  When he got out of the Navy after World War II he went to work for Larry MacPhail, now owner of the Yankees.  He was again asked to toil in the minor leagues and find talent to feed the Yankees dynasty with young talent.  During his time with this responsibility the Yankees won seven World Series.  Among the long list of talent discovered by Lee were Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.

After creating one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports, Lee moved out on his own and started to shape the Baltimore Orioles franchise.  The O's had moved from St.Louis just a few years before where they had struggled for over 50 years as the American League's doormats.  The St.Louis Brown's made the World Series one time before moving to Baltimore in 1954.  The first five years in Baltimore did not seem to really bring any hope for the future.  Lee MacPhail changed that.  Lee used his tremendous organizational skills to build Baltimore into the best baseball organization of the late 1960's to 1970's.  He left before the Orioles won their first World Series in 1966 but the team was developed out of his talents.

For many years afterwards Lee worked in the game.  He returned to the Yankees during the dark CBS years and eventually became the American League president.  His most memorable moment as the AL President came from the infamous George Brett pine tar incident.  When Brett was called out for using too much pine tar on his bat the Royals filed a protest.  As President of the American League the protest came to MacPhail's desk and he sided with Kansas City.  It was one of the few times that a League President overturned an umpire's decision.

On Thursday, November 8, 2012 at the age of 95, Lee MacPhail passed away.  When legends pass on the conversation usually turns to their "legacy".  Lee MacPhail's legacy, including the connection of his father dating back to the 1930's spans nearly every era of baseball but it also expands into the present day and lives on.  Lee's son Andy MacPhail, Larry's grandson, was also a baseball executive and helped build the Twins world Series teams in 1987 and 1991, the strong Cubs teams of the late 1990's and helped lay the ground work of the current Orioles teams. 

Lee MacPhail passed away but the impact he left on the game of baseball is well marked in the past and will continue to reach well into the future.


  1. "With no drinks he was brilliant. With one he was a genius, with two he was insane. He rarely stopped at two."

    I want that engraved on my tombstone.

    Nice Reading, Pa connection. Interesting.


  2. Reading in the house! ;)

    As a non-baseball fan, I never heard of Lee, so it was cool to read about his life. 95 is a long time and it's nice that he left such an impact on the sport.

  3. As a kid in the 50's there were 3 names associated with baseball: 1) The Yankees; 2) The O'Malley's and 3) the MacPhail's .

    I didn't know he was involved with Reading until I read his obit. That was a pleasant surprise.



Have questions about something in this or a former post? Have a suggestion for a future post? Want more information on a specific team, player, season or game? I welcome the feedback, so feel free to leave a comment in the box or email me at baseballeras (at) gmail (dot) com.