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Updated: April 15, 2024 Viewpoint

Viewpoint: Remembering Larry Lucchino

As Worcester mayor during the Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series Championship season and as lieutenant governor during the Red Sox 2007 championship, I met Larry Lucchino on a few occasions. Cordial and intense, you quickly got the sense Larry was driven and results-oriented. This was logical as he was recognized as the organizing force that assembled the team on and off the field, allowing the Red Sox to win their first World Series in 86 years and exorcize the Curse of the Bambino.

A man in a black suit and red and white striped tie with crossed arms
Photo I Courtesy of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
Timothy Murray

After Boston’s devastating 2003 loss to the Yankees, fans were at a low point. As written in Gotham Chopra’s book “Religion of Sports”, Larry and his team put together a video of highlights for the next season, ending with the quote, “Still, We Believe.” This appeal to Red Sox Nation was part of the 2004 marketing campaign and rooted in religious overtones. Larry said, “We took the wording straight out of the Catholic canon.” Larry was familiar with this, growing up in Pittsburgh and attending St. Rosalia’s Church, where he would recite the Apostles’ and/or Nicene Creed at weekly mass.

In addition, Larry revolutionized how baseball parks are built. As president of the Baltimore Orioles in 1992, he oversaw the opening of the new Camden Yards ballpark in a blighted area. He reversed the trend of building car-centric stadiums on green space in the suburbs, to one going back to when ballparks interacted with the neighborhoods around them. As Boston Globe reporter Dan Shaughnessy wrote, Larry grew up near Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field and “never lost his love of asymmetrical green ballparks, replete with nooks and crannies, tucked into city neighborhoods. This is why Camden Yards was built and became the most important Major League Baseball change since Jackie Robinson integrated the sport.” Larry then built Petco Park in San Diego, restored Fenway Park in Boston, and built JetBlue Park in Florida, before finally bringing Polar Park to Worcester. 

The chamber was involved at the earliest stages in recruiting Larry and his Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester. This was an important opportunity to redevelop 21 acres of property contaminated for 40+ years. If done properly, it could be a true mixed-use district centered around the ballpark and could knit back together neighborhoods divided by this vacant space and I-290, while creating jobs and expanding the tax base. While known as a tough opponent, Larry more often saw the benefit of creating win-win situations when at the negotiating table.

At the exhibition game before the start of the 2021 season, I was at Polar Park with my mother and aunt, who grew up on Vernon Hill. Looking around the ballpark, they repeatedly said, “I can’t believe I am in Worcester.” Moments later, Larry walked over and introduced himself to my mom and aunt, where they repeated this sentiment. Larry, without missing a beat, leaned over, gave them a little hug, pointed out at the field, and simply said, “Believe.”

Timothy Murray is president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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