PawSox Principal Owner/Chairman Larry Lucchino will be extremely busy on Tuesday, August 20. Ditto for Wednesday, August 21.
Mind you it’s a very good busy … a true labor of love on Lucchino’s part.
With the power of two iconic Boston-based sports stations (WEEI & NESN) providing the platform to raise funds to help conquer cancer, the 17th annual Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon will step off on the aforementioned dates. It’s two days where you’ll hear inspiring stories that tug at your heart strings and serve as a source of true inspiration.
Try to find someone who hasn’t been affected by cancer. It’s next to impossible, hence Lucchino sets out to do his part in combating a disease that comes in all shapes and forms.
Besides tending to his all-encompassing PawSox duties – Lucchino in 2019 is celebrating 40 years as a baseball executive – we’re also talking about an individual who serves as the Chairman of the Jimmy Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Dana-Farber Institute.
From the early morning hours on August 20 until the closing bell that tolls around 11:30 p.m. on August 21, Lucchino will be spreading the word via media appearances and manning the telephones – all in two day’s work where the cause is undeniable and the magnitude should never be undersold.
Sitting in his McCoy Stadium office which overlooks the playing surface one day earlier this week, Lucchino talked in glowing terms about his stronger-than-oak bond with the Jimmy Fund, which has been attached to the Red Sox’ hip since 1953 after being found six years earlier.
His own personal connection to Dana-Farber dates back to 1986 when Lucchino came face-to-face with cancer – specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time, Lucchino was the 40-year-old vice president and general counsel of the Baltimore Orioles.
During the winter months leading up to the 1986 baseball season, Lucchino made numerous trips from Baltimore to Boston, even though the travel was far from smooth.
“It was one of the best decisions I think I’ve ever made,” said Lucchino, who remained a Jimmy Fund patient over the next few years following his initial visit.
In 1998, Lucchino was invited by his doctor at Dana-Farber, Lee M. Nadler, MD, to share his story of survival with his fellow cancer survivors at an event in conjunction with the Pan-Mass Challenge, another cause that champions life-saving cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber. At the time, Lucchino was President/CEO of the San Diego Padres.
“Coming from San Diego to speak in Boston, I felt an instant connection,” said Lucchino.
One of Lucchino’s top priorities upon joining the Red Sox as President/CEO in December 2001 was to physically bring Principal Owner John Henry and Chairman Tom Werner over to Dana-Farber and show them physical proof of the historical connection between the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund.
“It is, and I think always will be, one of the great examples of an extraordinarily powerful alliance between a sports team and a cancer institution,” said Lucchino.
The goal was to see if the possibility existed to take it up a notch or two. Enter the radio/television telethon, which was officially launched in 2002 and since its inception has raised $54 million. Last year, the take home was $4.5 million. This year, the goal is to raise $4 million.
“It’s a great event. It brings the ballclub, the Jimmy Fund patients, the Dana-Farber institution, the community, the survivors … it brings everyone together for a few days,” said Lucchino. “It’s very gratifying to see the telethon become a summer institution. People look forward to it and the Red Sox players know they will be asked to be directly involved.”
Along those lines, Lucchino has always found the Red Sox players to be cooperative and willing participants in the Jimmy Fund Telethon.
“Many of them have done just a great job, showing their compassion and energy after hearing the stories,” said Lucchino. “To put it mildly, they are moved.”
The telethon has yielded contributions from a who’s who of baseball stalwarts, from late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Those with ties to the Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots have made contributions with the firm goal of making a difference in the battle against cancer.
“Even though it’s a cause identified primarily with the Red Sox, we share it with the Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots. They make important contributions and support the efforts,” said Lucchino.
When Lucchino stepped down following his 14-year front office run with Red Sox in 2015, the Dana Farber people contacted him and asked if he would be willing to assume the role of Jimmy Fund chairman. Lucchino was already on the Jimmy Fund board and active on the Red Sox side of the relationship.
“That further connected me,” he said. “I was willing to do it for free.”
Lucchino described the telethon as the apex of the relationship between the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund. The proof lies in the faces of inspiration that in less than two week’s time will provide ample justification to dig a little deeper into your pocket.
“There are a lot of worthy charitable opportunities that sports teams get behind, but I challenge you to find something as worthy and universal as fighting cancer,” said Lucchino.
The PawSox take on Toledo Friday, August 16th at 7:00pm ET on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.