Lee’s quiet, soft-spoken, introverted personality contrasted sharply with that of his explosively extroverted father, Larry MacPhail. After graduating from Swarthmore College, he began his baseball career as business manager at Reading in the Interstate League in 1941. He became director of player personnel for the Yankees from 1948 through 1958, helping to produce the team that won nine pennants in those years. He moved to Baltimore as president and GM in ’58, building the team that won the 1966 world championship. In 1965, MacPhail became chief administrative assistant to Commissioner William Eckert. He was named TSN’s Executive of the Year in 1966. In October of that year, he returned to the Yankees as executive vice-president and GM, serving until 1973, when he was elected president of the AL. During his ten years in that post, he directed expansion to Toronto and Seattle, helped develop the designated hitter rule, and was known as a voice of reason and moderation. He was possibly the only AL president to have seen symphony orchestras perform in every league city. He resigned in 1983 to become president of the ML Player Relations Committee, representing the owners in negotiations with the players’ association.
Lee’s son, Andy MacPhail, was the GM of the Minnesota Twins in the late 1980s.