Family Day

Two generations of Orioles execs share game

On the MacPhails

February 29, 2008|By DAN CONNOLLY

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.-- --The father and son enjoyed the most American of moments yesterday, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at a ballgame, wearing matching Orioles warm-up jackets and basking in the South Florida sun.

The son pointed around the diamond, identifying the players in their pristine uniforms before the first pitch of the Grapefruit League season.

When the son got to new Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, he explained to his dad that the 22-year-old had a lot of talent, a lot of upside.

"That was your big trade, right?" the father said.

"Yeah," the son answered.

It was a Norman Rockwell painting - with a twist.

Because the son is 54 and the dad is 90. The son, Andy MacPhail, is the Orioles president and the man charged with rebuilding a once-proud franchise. He sat to the right of his father, Lee Jr., the Hall of Fame executive who served as the New York Yankees' general manager, American League president and, from 1958 to 1965, helped build the Orioles from a fledgling club to an eventual powerhouse.

From the first row of Section 13 behind the home dugout at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, one of the more influential men in baseball history and his son, who has a couple of World Series rings himself, watched the Orioles play the Marlins.

The son keeping score, with his arm around his father's chair. The father tightly holding an Orioles roster, studying it intently.

It was the first time they had done this in two years, attended a game together. It was the first time Lee MacPhail had ever seen his son's Orioles, who once were his Orioles.

"I really enjoy following his career," said the elder MacPhail, who lives in southeastern Florida, about an hour's drive north of Fort Lauderdale. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, 20 years after his own father, Leland "Larry" MacPhail Sr., a longtime owner and baseball executive, was elected into the Hall.

For a while yesterday, three generations watched the game, as Lee MacPhail IV, the nephew of the Orioles president, the grandson of Lee Jr. and the Orioles director of pro scouting, sat down for an inning.

Few noticed the baseball royalty in the front row. In fact, at one point, Andy MacPhail acted as a liaison between a beer vendor and four twenty-somethings to his right, passing Budweisers down the row like any other patron.

At times, though, they stood out.

"I'm so glad you were able to come to the stadium," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said to his boss' dad while engaging him in a hearty handshake. "It's a real pleasure to meet you. You are a credit to the game."

Several times, fans came over for autographs. One guy in a Chicago Cubs hat bypassed Andy for his dad.

Slowly and legibly, Lee MacPhail wrote his name on baseballs and pieces of paper - even for the fan who originally thought he was Earl Weaver.

For the most part, the two men just watched the game uninterrupted. The father urged Orioles starter Adam Loewen to throw strikes while the son explained the left-hander hadn't pitched competitively in 10 months.

The father clapped when the Orioles scored while the son nodded approvingly.

It was a meaningless game in another meaningless exhibition season.

Yet it had plenty of significance. A son and father - the franchise's present and past architects - watched their Orioles play ball on a cloudless Florida afternoon.

"It really turned out to be a gorgeous day," Andy MacPhail said.

"Perfect," his father added.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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