Loria eventually needed bodyguards when he attended Expos games. His right-hand man and stepson, Samson, doesn’t tend to smooth feathers ruffled by Loria with his often abrasive personality. At Expos offices, the 5-5 Samson was known as “Little Napoleon.” When they left, they took computers, scouting files, signed baseballs, even a life-size cutout of Vladimir Guerrero.
“People here believe Loria and Samson hijacked baseball from Montreal,” said Mitch Melnick, radio host on TSN 690 and a Montreal broadcaster for 35 years.
But Melnick said Loria was handcuffed at the start by a deteriorating franchise with local revenue lower than that of some triple A clubs. He wanted to abandon awful Olympic Stadium and build downtown, but government leaders rebuffed his calls for public financing.
“People call them liars and crooks but I think initially they wanted to make it work here,” Melnick said. “Nobody wanted to pay for it, including his partners. So Loria said, ‘We’re going to have to strip this thing.’”
“At least Miami got a stadium,” added Melnick, referring to Marlins Park. After years of lobbying and threats of departure, and despite local opposition, Loria won public financing for three-fourths the cost of the $525 million retractable-roof ballpark. He contributed $120 million.
The art dealer
In the art world, Loria deals primarily in 20th century masters such as Henry Moore and Joan Miro in the secondary market, buying and selling works for collectors, working out of a discrete Upper East Side office.
Loria has said he prefers to keep his art business private.
“I’ve never met him, never seen him at shows,” said Wynwood gallery owner Fredric Snitzer, who is on the Art Basel Miami Beach selection committee. “We’ve got a pretty lively arts scene down here but he is not involved in it.”
Loria could argue he isn’t trying to win a popularity contest. He’s trying to win championships, and the Marlins did win the 2003 World Series. Loria believes the hiring of the 72-year-old McKeon 40 games into the season was a stroke of genius.
Loria, an all-city second baseman at New York’s Stuyvesant High, used to attend Yankees games with his father. He still buys season tickets. He lived out a fantasy when his Marlins clinched the Series in Yankees Stadium and he ran the bases in celebration, crossing home plate with tears in his eyes.
He bought huge World Series rings for players and staff. Sparing no expense, ignoring no detail, he specified that each ring have a rare teal diamond as the eye of the leaping marlin.