Portland Sea Dogs founder and longtime owner Daniel Burke passed away Wednesday morning at age 82, the Boston Red Sox announced.
Born and raised in New York, Burke spent summers in Maine for over 50 years and reintroduced pro baseball to the Portland area in 1994. The club started out as the Double-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins before transitioning to the Red Sox for the 2003 season.
During Burke's tenure, the Sea Dogs collected five division titles and won the Eastern League championship in 2006. Many current Red Sox players spent time in Portland during their Minor League careers, including Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and, when the team was part of the Marlins' system, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett
"I had the honor of knowing Dan for 30 years, ever since he invited me to work with him when Capital Cities acquired the ABC network," Red Sox chairman Tom Werner told MLB.com. "I was fortunate to collaborate with him in the television industry, where his reputation was absolutely peerless in terms of his respect for quality, honesty and integrity. I know he is going to be deeply missed by anyone who had the privilege of knowing him."
"I am deeply saddened by the news of Dan's passing," Boston executive vice president/general manager Ben Cherington told MLB.com. "He was an important part of the Red Sox family, and I was lucky to call him a friend. His professional accomplishments are well known, but those of us at the Red Sox knew him best as the caretaker of so many Portland Sea Dogs and future Red Sox big leaguers. He had a keen eye for talent and I benefited from many hours in his box at Hadlock Field. He will be sorely missed."
Burke served as the CEO of Capital Cities/ABC from 1972-'90 before being named president and chief executive. He retired in 1994.
Burke passed away at his home surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Harriet "Bunny" Burke, four children and 14 grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, Burke's family requests donations be made to Maine Medical Center, The Partnership for a Drug Free America and the Naomie Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center.