PITTSBURGH -- 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, 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
"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."
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
Bob 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.
McClatchy took months to assemble a group that finally bought
the Pirates for about $95 million -- or about one-third the current
value. At the time, no other group or individual was interested in
buying the team. NL president Len Coleman helped guide McClatchy's
group through the sale process so the team would not be forced to
"If it weren't for Kevin McClatchy, there would be no PNC Park
-- and no Pittsburgh Pirates," former mayor Tom Murphy said upon
leaving office last year.
While the Pirates stayed in Pittsburgh under McClatchy, they did
not prosper on the field. McClatchy was not privately wealthy, and
the club's payroll was annually among the lowest in the majors
except for a brief period in 2001, when the Pirates moved into PNC
Park. Building one of the majors' best ballparks will likely be
viewed as McClatchy's chief accomplishment.
The Pirates have contended only once under McClatchy, in 1997
when a team with the majors' lowest payroll stayed in the NL
Central race until the final week of the season until losing out to
McClatchy's reign also was marked by the departure of successful
manager Jim Leyland, who wearied during four consecutive losing
seasons from 1993-96, and a string of unsuccessful signings that
included Derek Bell, Pat Meares and Kevin Young. The team also gave
a far-above-market value $60 million deal to catcher Jason Kendall
that still hasn't been cleaned off their books.
"Any organization, whether it's a baseball team or a grocery
chain, having a CEO for 10 years generally is a long time,"
McClatchy said. "But I think we have done some good things,
whether it's the ballpark, whether it's the North Shore
development, the All-Star Game, keeping the team in Pittsburgh --
some things that are pretty good."