John Harrington (baseball)

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John L. Harrington (born c. late 1930s) is an American business manager. He was the CEO of the Boston Red Sox.

Early life and career

He graduated from Boston College in 1957, and received his MBA from Boston College in 1966.[1] After college, he was an officer in the U.S. Navy, then worked for both the General Accounting Office and NASA. He eventually became an accounting professor at BC until 1970, where he was hired by Joe Cronin, president of the American League, to be the league's controller.

Boston Red Sox

After Cronin retired, Harrington was hired by Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey as treasurer of the Red Sox. Yawkey died in 1976 and was eventually replaced by his wife Jean,[2] who sold the team in 1977 to a syndicate headed by general partners Buddy LeRoux and Haywood Sullivan. To gain approval of the sale by the American League, Mrs. Yawkey joined the ownership group in 1978 as its third general partner and club president. Harrington left the team to work for Governor Edward King of Massachusetts and then for a Lloyd's of London Insurance affiliate. But he eventually returned to the Red Sox in the mid-1980s, during a period of strife between LeRoux and his partners, and became an important advisor to Mrs. Yawkey.

As CEO of the Boston Red Sox

After Jean Yawkey's death in 1992, as trustee of the JRY Trust, Harrington arranged for the Trust to buy out the shares of Sullivan, the last remaining general partner.[3] He completely overhauled the front office, bringing in general manager Dan Duquette from the Montreal Expos. Under Harrington's leadership the team compiled one of the best records in baseball; The team won the 1986 ALCS; won the AL East in 1988, 1990 and 1995; and won the Wild Card in 1998 and 1999.

Harrington was instrumental in acquiring Pedro Martínez, Manny Ramírez, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe and other stars. Harrington built a new spring training facility in Fort Myers and broadened the reach and popularity of Red Sox majority Owned NESN – New England Sports Network. He was responsible for bringing the All-Star Game to Fenway Park in 1999. He also played key roles within Major League Baseball. He was the lead negotiator for baseball owners during the strike of 1994,[4] and led the development of both interleague play and the creation of the Wild Card playoff format.

During Harrington's tenure, the Red Sox were also embroiled in several controversial episodes. In 1997 legendary pitcher Roger Clemens acrimoniously left the team to sign as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he won a fourth Cy Young Award.[5]

Also in 1997, after infielder Wil Cordero was arrested on domestic assault charges,[6] a half-dozen Red Sox front office members made a show of support on Cordero's behalf by appearing in court at his arraignment.[7] Weeks later, Harrington initially refused to accept the terms of a negotiated settlement between the players' union and the owners' Player Relations Committee to allow Cordero to return to the team.[8] However Harrington relented after the union threatened to file a grievance and owners' counsel advised him he was unlikely to prevail in court.[8] Cordero's return drew criticism from women's rights advocates,[6] and Cordero would ultimately plead guilty to the charges after the season.[9]

In December 1997, Harrington and the club faced charges of racial bias and harassment after a black former employee of the team claimed a framed photo of himself and his fiancee was defaced with a racial epithet.[10] The following month, a civil rights advocate who offered to mediate a settlement for the club abandoned those efforts, accusing Harrington of rebuffing him and failing to deal in good faith.[11] The case led to a hearing before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and was ultimately settled.[12]

In 1999, Harrington proposed the idea of moving the Red Sox into a new ballpark which was scheduled to be built adjacent to Fenway an even named "New Fenway Park", (similar to what happened to Yankee Stadium in 2008). This idea was wildely controversial, as many Red Sox fans consider Fenway "a national treasure" of sorts.[13] Harrington was quoted as saying that, "It would be easier to fix the Leaning Tower of Pisa than Fenway".[14] The team set aside $415 million of $545 million allotted for the new ballpark, with the public financing the rest, estimated at $130 million.[15] The baseball world had seen the closure of Tiger Stadium that same year, and many hoped Fenway would avoid the same fate. After much outcry from the public, Harrington sold the team to their current ownership group headed by John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. Under Henry's group, the Red Sox celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fenway on April 20, 2012.

Post-Red Sox life

He is currently Chairman of the Yawkey Foundation.[1]


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  5., Roger Clemens player page (retrieved 5 May 2011)
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Wil Cordero charged with beating wife", Boston Globe 12 June 1997 (retrieved 5 May 2011)
  7. Bryant, Howard. Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston, Beacon Press (2003), page 234
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Deal Reached on Cordero" New York Times, 3 July 1997 (retrieved 5 May 2011)
  9. , "Cordero Pleads Guilty", New York Times 4 November 1997 (retrieved 5 May 2011)
  10. "Ex-Employee Accuses Sox of Racial Harassment", Albany (NY) Times-Union, 17 December 1997 (retrieved 5 May 2011)
  11. "Settlement of Red Sox Dispute Fails; Advocate Blames Team For Snub In Bias Case" Boston Globe, 31 January 1998 (retrieved 5 May 2011)
  12. "Red Sox, Ex-Worker Square Off Today; Bias Case Goes To MCAD Hearing" Boston Globe, 12 February 1998 (retrieved 5 May 2011)