“We seek … to honor the substantial contributions that [longtime PawSox owner] Ben Mondor and his loyal team have made to this community for generations.”
These are the words of one of the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Larry Lucchino, as quoted in the Boston Globe. Lucchino lies. Yes, this is the same Larry Lucchino who is one of the principal owners of the Boston Red Sox. Yes, this is the same Larry Lucchino who is the current President and CEO of the Boston Red Sox. And yes, this is the same Lucchino who makes many Red Sox fans’ skin crawl every time they see or hear him.
Lucchino is all about money. Lucchino has the reputation for turning franchises around. He is also known for building and renovating stadiums. He was with the Baltimore organization when they built Camden Yards. He was also with the San Diego Padres when they built Petco Park. Fenway Park has undergone numerous renovations under his watch. Now he wants to build a new stadium in Providence for the Pawtucket Red Sox.
For close to four decades, there has been no better entertainment value for the buck than going to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to watch high quality baseball. Future Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk, Wade Boggs, and Jim Rice have played at McCoy for the hometown PawSox.
One of the alluring things about McCoy is the murals of Pawtucket Red Sox greats and not-so-greats that line the walls of several of the ramps. Dozens of PawSox players are immortalized there (or, at least, until the walls get knocked, thanks to Larry). There is Fred Lynn, Marty Barrett, Rich Gedman, Sam Horn, Mo Vaughn. There are sure to be some murals that will stop you in your steps and have you saying, “Oh, wow! I forgot about him,” and make you feel nostalgic for your youth.
McCoy Stadium has a storied history. Do yourself a favor and read Dan Barry’s “Bottom of the 33rd.” The book chronicles the history of the stadium as well as the players that played in the longest game in professional baseball history. Oh, yes, that’s right. The longest game in professional baseball history was played at McCoy Stadium on a cold night in April 1981. Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, Jr. played in that game. The game had to be finished months later with the PawSox finally winning in 33 innings.
For good or bad, McCoy Stadium is Pawtucket. In the beginning, the stadium was a pimple on the city. For the last couple of decades, though, the stadium has become renowned for being one of the fan-friendliest parks in the country. It is a source of pride to have the name Red Sox attached to the city.
McCoy Stadium is now viewed as a hidden gem. It is a gathering spot for Rhode Islanders. It has become a shrine. One of the most eagerly anticipated events of the year are the 4th of July fireworks shows.
Now here comes Lucchino and company. In the words of Pawtucket mayor Donald R. Grebien, Pawtucket wasn’t “even on the table” in terms of keeping the minor league team there.
“I can’t tell you half of what they said, because when they said, ‘It’s not going to be Pawtucket,’ that just took the the air out of the room,” Grebien told the Providence Journal.
Lucchino can say all he wants about honoring Ben Mondor’s legacy, but he is full of it. He could care less about Ben Mondor or following his ideals of giving fans a cheap, fan-friendly experience. Mondor purchased the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1977. He passed away at the age of 85 in 2010. A statue of Mondor stands outside the entrance to the stadium. The year Mondor passed away a fan could purchase a general admission ticket for $7 and parking would cost anywhere for free (if you get there early enough) to a couple of bucks in the designated parking areas around the park.
Now you’ll be lucky if you spend less than $12 to park in a parking garage near the new Providence stadium (will it be named Lucchino Stadium?). Now everything will be about money, money, money. You want a picture with mascots Paws or Sox? It’ll cost you five bucks. Oh, wait, the mascot Sox may survive, but her husband Paws will no longer exist because there will be no more Pawtucket. Sorry, Paws. When’s the funeral?
Ticket prices will be sure to rise. Hey, there will need be a new stadium in Providence that needs to be built. James Skeffington, another of the rich guys in the new 10-member ownership group, told the Providence Journal that the new owners “can’t do that [build a stadium] alone” and would seek state and local funding “to help in some way.”
Where have we heard that before? Oh, that’s right– Curt Schilling. The state of Rhode Island is still licking its wounds from the $75 million shortfall of that deal. A new stadium should cost another $60 million- $70 million. Will the state learn their lesson? Probably not.
It’s sad. It really is. There are generations of Rhode Islanders now who have fond childhood memories of going to McCoy Stadium. The idea of the stadium sitting, empty, for how many ever summers until it gets demolished is depressing. The idea of driving by the area ten years from now and seeing cheap housing or shopping plazas where the likes of Roger Clemens and Jon Lester used to pitch should make locals weep. Maybe Lucchino will try to get you to buy the bricks of the stadium before he knocks it down.
Lucchino doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about how frustrating it is to navigate the city of Providence during rush hour. Has he ever driven on Route 95 through Providence around 6 p.m. on a weekday (the time which most PawSox games start at)? Unlikely.
The Red Sox triple-A affiliate already has a home, and it is in Pawtucket. It belongs in Pawtucket. It may seem like a small thing. Providence is only five miles down the road. It is precisely because Providence is only five miles down the road that they shouldn’t move. Would you spend $60 million to move your business three buildings down the street? It’s pointless and just another reason to despise Larry Lucchino.