The newspaper heir is credited for saving Pirates’ baseball in Pittsburgh.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kevin McClatchy not only saved baseball in Pittsburgh as the Pirates’ owner, he accomplished what was once seen as the impossible by getting a new ballpark built.
McClatchy persuaded commissioner Bud Selig to bring the All-Star game back to town only 12 years after it was played there. He helped oversee one of the city’s largest urban development projects in decades, the growth that’s occurred around PNC Park and the Steelers’ Heinz Field.
Only one thing went wrong: The Pirates never won under McClatchy.
McClatchy, a newspaper heir widely credited with preventing the Pirates from leaving Pittsburgh by assembling an ownership group in 1996 when no one else would, announced Friday he is stepping down as the team’s chief executive officer at the end of the season.
The Pirates are on pace for a 15th consecutive losing season, one short of the major league record. If they do not have a winning record this season, it will be their 12th consecutive losing record under McClatchy.
“I take responsibility for the losing, that’s probably in some ways reason for a change,” McClatchy told The Associated Press. “It’s good to turn the page, have a fresh perspective.”
Lost majority ownership
The 44-year-old McClatchy lost majority ownership stake in the club to West Virginia newspaper owner G. Ogden Nutting several years ago, and in January was supplanted by Nutting’s son, Bob, as principal owner. McClatchy initially knew the elder Nutting through their newspaper ties and brought him into his ownership group.
“Why now? Because now is the right time,” McClatchy said. “I remember a quote from a long time ago, [former Raiders coach] John Madden said you get about 10 years in the frying pan and then, after a while, you start to get burned out.”
McClatchy, who grew up in the San Francisco area, became one of the youngest owners in major league history when his group officially completed the purchase in February 1996. The club — formerly owned by a cross-section of Pittsburgh businessmen and corporations — had been for sale for nearly 18 months, with cable TV magnate John Rigas unsuccessfully attempting to buy it before McClatchy stepped in.
“Kevin McClatchy saved the Pittsburgh Pirates,” Selig said Friday in a statement. “He assumed control of the franchise amid considerable turmoil and during the worst economic period in baseball history.”
Bob Nutting said McClatchy’s departure at the end of the season will give the franchise plenty of time to “conduct a thorough search ... give us an opportunity for a smooth transition into a new chapter of the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.”
Nutting said the search wouldn’t be limited to baseball executives, and that McClatchy’s successor will have full control of the Pirates’ front office. That executive’s No. 1 objective, Nutting said, will be to bring a winning team to Pittsburgh.
“I want to make sure we take a look at the broad array of talents, whether it’s a connection to Pittsburgh, whether it’s a history in baseball, a history in sports, a track record,” Nutting said. “All of those will be factors that will be considered, but I certainly don’t want to limit this search in any way. It’s important we get a candidate who can move this franchise forward and move it forward particularly as we look at the won-lost record.”