(COOPERSTOWN, NY): Lee MacPhail, elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 following a five-decade career in the front office and with the American League, passed away peacefully on Thursday evening of natural causes at his home in Delray Beach, Fla. He was the oldest living Hall of Famer, having celebrated his 95th birthday with family and friends two weeks ago.
Born Oct. 25, 1917 in Nashville, Tenn., MacPhail was the son of another Hall of Fame executive, Larry MacPhail, making them the only father-son duo in Cooperstown. MacPhail 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,” said Hall of Fame Chairman of the Board Jane Forbes Clark. “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.”
Beginning with the Yankees in 1949, MacPhail served as the Farm Director and Player Personnel Director for 10 years, building a system that led the team to seven World Series Championships and nine pennants during his tenure.
In 1959, he became the general manager for the Baltimore Orioles, laying the groundwork for the 1966 World Series Championship team as well as one of the most successful franchises in the modern era.
In 1965, MacPhail became the chief administrative assistant to newly elected commissioner William Eckert. The Sporting News named him Executive of the Year in 1966. He then returned to the Yankees as general manager from 1967 to 1973 before being elected president of the American League.
From 1974 to 1983, he oversaw the expansion in Toronto and Seattle, helped develop the designated hitter rule and ruled on George Brett’s famous pine tar home run. In 1981, he was instrumental in negotiations about free agency that helped to end the player’s strike. He resigned after the 1983 season, but continued his work in baseball as the president of the Major League Baseball Player Relations Committee.
Lee MacPhail was elected to the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors in 1974, making him the longest-tenured member of the current Board. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Veterans Committee.
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 is asking that donations in his memory be made to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Lee MacPhail’s Hall of Fame plaque (elected, 1998)
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.
Lee MacPhail bio
Following in his father’s Hall of Fame footsteps, Lee MacPhail served as a front-office executive for 45 years. As director of player personnel for the New York Yankees, MacPhail built one of the game’s strongest farm systems. During his tenure, the Yankees won seven World Series championships in 10 years. In 1966, MacPhail was named Major League Executive of the Year. He served as American League President for 10 years, earning praise for his logic and mediation skills. He later served as head of the Player Relations Committee, representing owners in arbitration, free agency and collective bargaining.
QUOTES ABOUT LEE MacPHAIL
Whitey Ford, Hall of Fame pitcher: “Lee MacPhail was a good man, and I had a great relationship with him for many, many years. 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.”
Pat Gillick, Hall of Fame executive: “Lee was one of the nicest, most considerate general managers I ever dealt with. And as president of the American League, he was one of the most professional individuals with whom I’ve ever worked.”
On the web: Lee MacPhail’s Hall of Fame Induction Speech, a video tribute and his Hall of Fame plaque appear online at baseballhall.org.