PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Pawtucket Red Sox President James Skeffington, a lawyer who became the minor league affiliate's public face and lead cheerleader for a plan to move the team to downtown Providence, has died. He was 73.
Skeffington died Sunday night while jogging in Barrington, where he lived, team spokeswoman Patti Doyle said Monday. His brother, Jack Skeffington, said the cause was a heart attack.
Boston Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino said that Skeffington "was passionately devoted to his home state" and that he may have been the most generous person he had ever known.
"He loved virtually every sport he encountered, especially baseball, and he seemed to attend every sporting event he could. He was deeply committed to the PawSox and to ensuring a bright future for the franchise in Rhode Island," Lucchino said in a statement.
Skeffington bought the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox in February with a group that includes Lucchino. They bought it from Madeleine Mondor, the widow of Ben Mondor, who owned the team from 1977 until his death in 2010.
In announcing the sale, the group also announced a controversial and potentially expensive decision: The team would leave Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium and hoped to build a stadium on riverfront land in downtown Providence. The ownership group initially asked for $120 million in state subsidies for a stadium but said it was formulating a new plan after it met opposition.
Skeffington in recent days had been visiting community groups and others to talk about his vision.
The ownership group has said it plans to leave Pawtucket and is focused on striking a deal in Providence, although some local officials in Massachusetts have expressed interest in attracting the team.
"Jim was an extremely loyal and charitable man who, in his all too brief time with the PawSox, relished his new role as club president. He enjoyed learning all he could about the PawSox operation and meeting fans, staff, and players," the team said in a written statement. "Jim was committed to keeping the PawSox in Rhode Island and sharing his vision for a new ballpark."
A prominent lawyer in Providence, Skeffington had been involved in past public-private development projects, including the Rhode Island Convention Center and the Providence Place mall.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he was deeply saddened by the news and called Skeffington a legend.
Skeffington's family remembered him as an adviser to business leaders and government officials for nearly 50 years but said he also took time out to work for educational and charitable institutions.
"He made it part of his life to reach out to individuals enduring difficult times in everyday life. He quietly came to the aid of many, asking nothing in return," his family said in a statement.
His brother said a funeral date hadn't been set yet.