Lou Gorman, who built three playoff teams in his 10 seasons as the Red Sox general manager, died this morning at age 82.
A family member confirmed to the Globe that Gorman died at 1:50 a.m.
“Lou Gorman was a legendary figure in the game of baseball,” Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry said via a team press release. “Over the course of a career that spanned five decades, Lou helped to build winning teams across the sport, including the 1986 American League Champion Red Sox. Lou also served his country with honor and distinction, spending more than eight years of active service in the United States Navy. Above all else, Lou Gorman was a profoundly decent man who always had a kind word and an optimist’s perspective. His warm spirit and fundamental goodness will be greatly missed.”
The good-natured Gorman was the Red Sox general manager from 1984 to ’93. He was the architect of the 1986 Red Sox team, featuring Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans, that came one strike from winning the World Series before falling to the New York Mets.
Ironically, Gorman also had a significant hand in building their competition in that World Series — he had previously worked as the Mets’ vice president of player personnel from 1980-83, where he had a hand in drafting or acquiring such players as Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden.
“Lou was a perpetual optimist, a wonderful storyteller, and a contributor to many outstanding baseball causes, such as the Red Sox Hall of Fame and the Baseball Assistance Team,” said baseball commissioner Bug Selig. “On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Lou’s family and his many friends and admirers throughout the game of baseball.”
Gorman also put together AL East-winning clubs in 1988 and ’90, though both seasons the Red Sox were swept in the ALCS by the Oakland A’s. A new generation of standout players developed on his watch, including Ellis Burks, Mike Greenwell, and into the ’90s, Mo Vaughn and John Valentin.
But part of his legacy is a trade made in August 1990, one that helped get the Red Sox into the postseason but would become one of the bigger “what-ifs” in franchise lore. To acquire middle relief pitcher Larry Andersen from Houston, he gave up a promising Double A third baseman stuck behind Wade Boggs and Scott Cooper on the depth chart. Jeff Bagwell hit just four homers in his final season in the Red Sox organization. He hit 449 in 15 seasons with the Houston Astros.
“I get criticized for the Bagwell trade and probably always will be,” he told the Globe in 2005. “He turned out to be a great player. To me it was a question about trying to win now. We had a chance to win the division, play Oakland and go back to the World Series.”
The Red Sox ran into some lean years in the early ’90s, and Gorman was replaced by Dan Duquette in 1994, remaining as a senior adviser. In recent years, Gorman, who was chosen for the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2002, served as the Red Sox’ executive consultant for public affairs, with an emphasis on community projects.
It was a role to which the native New Englander — he was born in South Providence, R.I. and attended college at Stonehill — was perfectly suited late in his career.
An affable baseball lifer who always had a handshake and plenty of ready anecdotes for anyone who wanted to talk baseball, he also had uncommon perspective. When Roger Clemens walked out of camp during a contract dispute in 1987, Gorman quipped, “The sun will rise, the sun will set, and I’ll have lunch.”
He understood what it meant to grow up rooting for the Red Sox.
“Baseball in Boston is a passion,” he told the Globe in 2005. “Part of the culture growing up in New England is being a Red Sox fan. Red Sox Nation is like no other fandom in the world. They love the Red Sox and live and die with the Red Sox. The media coverage is so intense and so comprehensive like no other place I have been. Everything you do is analyzed and reanalyzed and critiqued.”
Gorman was remarkably accomplished in the game long before he came to the Red Sox.
He was the Orioles farm director in 1966 when many players he had helped usher through the minor leagues helped them win their first championship. He built two expansion teams from scratch, the Kansas City Royals in 1968 as the farm director and the Seattle Mariners in 1976 as their first GM.
Gorman wrote two books about his life in baseball: One Pitch From Glory: A Decade of Running the Red Sox., and High and Inside: My Life in the Front Offices of Baseball.