Results tagged ‘ Pat Gillick ’
Lee MacPhail, whose ties to the Yankees go back more than 60 years, died Thursday night of natural causes at his home in Delray Beach, Fla., two weeks after his 95th birthday. MacPhail had been the oldest living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a distinction that belongs now to former Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr, 94.
Born Oct. 25, 1917 in Nashville, Tenn., Lee MacPhail was the son of another Hall of Fame executive, Larry MacPhail. They are the only father-son combination in Cooperstown. Lee followed in his father’s footsteps by serving as a front office executive in baseball for 45 years.
“Baseball history has lost a great figure in Lee MacPhail, whose significant impact on the game spanned five decades,” Hall of Fame board chairman Jane Forbes Clark said. “As a Hall of Fame executive, Lee developed one of the game’s strongest farm systems for the New York Yankees before serving as American League president for 10 years. He will always be remembered in Cooperstown as a man of exemplary kindness and a man who always looked after the best interests of the game.”
MacPhail began his career with the Yankees in 1949. He served as farm director and player personnel director for 10 years and built a system that resulted in the team winning nine AL pennants and seven World Series championships during his tenure.
“Lee MacPhail was a good man, and I had a great relationship with him for many, many years,” Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford said. “I was pleased to see him elected to the Hall of Fame because he was so talented at building winners. As farm director, he was integral in maintaining the Yankees’ championship run.”
MacPhail left the Yankees in 1959 to become general manager of the Orioles. In Baltimore, he laid the groundwork for the 1966 World Series championship squad that began a decade-long stretch of success for that franchise.
In 1965, MacPhail became the chief administrative assistant to newly-elected commissioner William Eckert. After being named Executive of the Year in 1966 by The Sporting News, MacPhail returned to the Yankees as general manager and served in that capacity from 1967 to 1973 before being elected president of the AL.
From 1974 to 1983, MacPhail oversaw expansion in Toronto and Seattle, helped develop the designated hitter rule and ruled on George Brett’s famous pine tar home run in 1983. MacPhail was not popular with Yankees fans for that decision which upheld Brett’s home run. Principal owner George Steinbrenner felt strongly that Brett had broken baseball’s rule for how much pine tar could be used on a bat, but MacPhail ruled that the spirit of the rule was violated by negating the home run. The incident still causes debates today nearly 30 years later.
MacPhail resigned after the 1983 season but continued his work in baseball as the president of Major League Baseball’s Player Relations Committee. He was elected to the Hall of Fame’s board of directors in 1974, making him the longest-tenured member of the current board, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Veterans Committee.
“Lee was one of the nicest, most considerate general managers I ever dealt with,” Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick said. “And as president of the American League, he was one of the most professional individuals with whom I have ever worked.”
No services are planned at this time. A memorial will be held at a date to be announced.
In lieu of flowers, the MacPhail family has asked that donations in his memory be made to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Here is the reading on Lee MacPhail’s Hall of Fame plaque:
Leland Stanford MacPhail Jr.
One of the leading executives in baseball history, his name is synonymous with integrity and sportsmanship. As farm director and player personnel director of the Yankees (1949-58), helped build a system which yielded seven world championships. As Orioles general manager (1959-65), helped lay the groundwork for one of the game’s most consistently successful franchises; and he later rejoined the Yankees in the same capacity. Served admirably as American League president (1974-83) before concluding his 45-year career as president of the Player Relations Committee. He and his father Larry form the first father son tandem in the Hall of Fame.
A couple of years ago, I did a lengthy question-and-answer session with longtime Yankees favorite Lou Piniella about Ichiro Suzuki. Lou was the manager of the Mariners when Ichiro came to the major leagues in 2001. Here are 10 questions from that interview that I think should give Yankees fans some insight into the career of their newest outfielder.
Q1. Can you remember your first impression of Ichiro?
A: Ichiro first came to the Mariners as an exchange player in the spring of 2000. He was with us during the pre-exhibition period because he was not allowed to play in games. Watching him work out, I could tell that he could run, he could throw and he had good bat control. But we didn’t see him under game conditions.
Q2. Before the 2001 season began, did you expect Ichiro to have as much success in the majors as he has had? Why?
A: I could not predict all that would happen, but no, it does not surprise me. He was a disciplined hitter with great physical tools. That spring with us in 2001, he put the ball in play, utilized his speed and didn’t strike out much. We got the feeling we had something special here. He was already a star player in Japan, so really the only question was how he would do in the 162-game schedule.
I remember our general manager, Pat Gillick, worked very hard to sign Ichiro. We thought it we got lucky that we might have a really good player for six or seven or maybe eight years. And look, he’s still playing at a high level in his 10th year in the big leagues.
Q3. I heard you were so worried about Ichiro’s power part because he hit only to the opposite field during preseason games in 2001 until you asked him to pull the ball. Is that a true story?
A: Yes. The first few games for us that spring Ichiro hit the ball to left field exclusively. I remember talking to his translator and asking him if Ichiro could try to pull the ball so we could get a better idea of what he could do. The next day, Ichiro led off and pulled the first pitch over the right field wall for a home run. I saw what I needed to see and left him alone after that.
Q4. Can you analyze the reasons why Ichiro was able to have 200 hits for 10 consecutive seasons? Which part of Ichiro’s hitting is impressive to you?
A: He has great hand-eye coordination, which is important for a hitter, and he keeps himself in great physical shape. He can expand the zone a bit by chasing the ball up, but he puts the fat part of the bat on the ball so consistently and gets out of the batter’s box so quickly that infielders have to cheat on him. He actually is moving to first base often when he hits the ball, but he keeps his upper body straight and follows through on his swing. You don’t see anyone else do that.
Q5. From the manager’s point of view, Ichiro should have selected more pitches to hit? Or he should have taken more walks?
A: He is not going to walk much, that’s true, but he won’t strike out that much, either. His on-base percentage is not as high as maybe it should be for someone with a high batting average, but look, he gets on base with hits, so why worry about walks? His eyesight is superb, so it is not a matter of pitch recognition. He is just so adept at putting the ball in play. He’ll foul off a lot of pitches, but he does not swing and miss very much. Pitchers don’t want to walk him because of his speed on the bases. So if they get behind in the count, he still may get something to hit.
Q6. Do you have any specific memory of Ichiro during your managing career with the Mariners?
A: It was during his first season, a game in Oakland. I don’t remember the hitter or runner, but I do know that the runner was very fast. He was on first base when the hitter drove the ball into the gap in right-center. Ichiro chased down the ball, and I was thinking I hope he throws the ball to second base to keep the hitter from advancing because I didn’t think he had a prayer of getting the other runner going from first to third. He made a perfect throw to third and got the guy. It surprised the runner, my third baseman, the coaches, me and even the umpire. It’s still one of the greatest fielding plays I have ever seen.
Q7. Do you think he can reach 3,000 hits in the majors?
A: The key is for him to stay healthy. He stays in great shape physically, which he will have to continue to do to get to 3,000 hits. I think it’s possible, but it won’t be easy. I figure it would take him at least four more years. When you get to his age , you start to deal with some injuries. If he can avoid that, he has a good shot at it.
Q8. Did you see any differences on Ichiro between now and the time when you were the manager?
A: The only thing I see is that he doesn’t score as many runs, but the Mariners are a much different team from the one I had when we had a strong offensive club. Put some good hitters around him, and he’ll score 100 runs again on a regular basis. He still runs very well, has great instincts in the outfield and plays with so much pride.
Q9. What do you think about how Ichiro’s speed helps his hit record?
A: It’s a great asset. As I said before, infielders have to be on their toes with him. You see them often hurrying their throws on what are otherwise routine ground balls for any other hitter.
Q10. Should Ichiro make it to Hall of Fame? Why?
A: Absolutely. He is one of the greatest leadoff hitters in the history of the major leagues. He has excelled at nearly every aspect of the game. Ichiro is not a power hitter, but he has still hit his share of home runs, almost 100, I think. He’s a great hitter, a great base runner, a great fielder with a great arm, a game breaker. All of those qualities add up to me as a Hall of Fame player.