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Who Turned On The Lights?:



Loud Larry. The Barnum of baseball. Feisty. Impetuous. Those were just some of the words used to describe one-time Cincinnati Reds general manager Leland Stanford MacPhail, simply known as Larry MacPhail, baseball executive.


MacPhail was one of the first to use razzle-dazzle to entice baseball fans to the ballpark. He was the father of night baseball. He originated the stadium club idea at the ballpark. He was the first general manager to put his team into the air for all its road-game travel.


MacPhail reported to Cincinnati on November 7, 1933, as the Reds general manager. "He was 43 years old, dressed immaculately in various shades of tan and gray, and crowned by a hat with the brim invariably turned down," baseball historian Lee Allen wrote in his book, The Cincinnati Reds.


One of MacPhail's first jobs was to convince Powel Crosley, the Cincinnati automobile and radio tycoon, to purchase the Reds. MacPhail did a magnificent job and Crosley bought controlling interest in February 1934.


Next MacPhail began putting together a farm system for Cincinnati. He patterned the system after the St. Louis Cardinals, hiring popular Cincinnati sports figure Frank Lane to run ir. Before MacPhail's first year had been completed, the Reds either owned outright or had working agreements with six farm clubs and they began developing their own players instead of relying on trades or contract purchases to stock the team.


In 1935 MacPhail convinced Crosley and other National League owners that night baseball was a necessity for the Reds to survive. He made his point and soon light standards were being erected in many other stadiums.


This man with wild and crazy ideas was at it again in 1936: he sent the Reds to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for part of their spring training.


MacPhail was often times a hot-tempered individual and he could be hard to live with, especially if decisions didn't go his way. It was general knowledge that MacPhail and Crosley didn't always agree, but hardly anyone expected the announcement out of the Reds office on September 18, 1937:

MacPhail had resigned.


When he left Cincinnati that autumn, MacPhail thought he was finished with baseball. He went to Michigan and joined his brother in the investment business. But he didn't stay there long. He wound up in Brooklyn as general manager of the Dodgers. Under MacPhail's direction, Brooklyn got out of  debt. By the time he left for military service in World War II, the Dodgers had won their first pennant in 21 years.


   After the war, MacPhail returned to baseball, this time with the New York Yankees. He and a pair of young millionaires, Del Webb and Dan Topping, bought the New York Yankees for $2.8 million. It was with the Yankees that he introduced the posh stadium club, an exclusive party room for the Yankees best customers. Yankee attendance rose by more than one million and he clearly was recognized as a great baseball executive.


He left baseball after the 1947 season and spent much of his later years in life with his second love, horse racing. He had a fine stable of horses in Maryland.


MacPhail passed on his love for sports to his sons. Lee MacPhail is president of the American League and William is a former vice president of CBS sports.


MacPhail died in 1975 but will be remembered eternally as the father of night baseball.




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