The Foundation honors Leland “Larry” MacPhail, Sr. for his service in both World War I and World War II, as well as the impact he left behind in baseball. MacPhail is part of the only father-son duo to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Both Larry and his son, Lee, were inducted as MLB front office executives.
MacPhail enlisted in the United States Army in 1917, at the beginning of World War I and was wounded fighting in France. During his first enlistment, he was an artillery Captain in France and Belgium. He made major contributions to the war effort, including his participation in the attempt to kidnap the former German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was living in exile in Holland. MacPhail and his commanding officer and former Tennessee U. S. Senator, Colonel Luke Lea, came close to imprisonment and barely got out alive.
After his discharge from the military, he worked in a corporate position within baseball and, in 1934, he became the vice president and general manager of the Cincinnati Reds and made many innovative changes. One of the decisions was to have the Reds travel to their games by airplane, making them the first team in the Major Leagues to do so. The beginning of night baseball had also begun when the lights were turned on for the first time at Crosley Field in Cincinnati in May of 1935.
In 1937, he left baseball to become a banker but quickly returned when he was asked to bail out the Brooklyn Dodgers. As a mover and shaker with his creative thinking, he shined once again while with the Dodgers, implementing regular radio broadcasts, having Red Barber serve as the play-by-play announcer, and investing in protective equipment such as batting helmets.
While with the Dodgers, MacPhail rejoined the Army in 1942. This time, he was responsible for public relations and communications work for the War Department. His old mentor and foe, Branch Rickey, replaced him in Brooklyn.
After his service in World War II, MacPhail filled many positions with the New York Yankees, including president, co-owner, and general manager. He is known for a trade that never happened. While drinking with Tom Yawkey, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, they discussed a trade that involved Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. However, this trade never came to fruition.
Larry was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978 and was later joined by his son, Lee, who was inducted in 1998.
Larry MacPhail is honored for his dedication to his country and the sacrifices he made to serve in both World Wars. His commitment and innovation left behind an impactful legacy in the military and in baseball.