Lou Piniella is one of baseball’s greatest journeymena��a player with the Orioles, the Indians, the Royals, and the Yankees, in addition to stints as a manager with the Yankees, the Reds, the Mariners, the Devil Rays, and the Cubs.
Piniella’s achievements as a manager include winning a World Series championship, AL Manager of the Year twice, and NL Manager of the Year once. With 1,835 career wins, Piniella is #14 on the all-time lista��ahead of Hall of Fame managers Earl Weaver, Wilbert Robinson, Al Lopez, Miller Huggins, Tommy Lasorda, and Clark Griffith. Also, Piniella managed the Mariners to an American League single-season record of 116 wins in 2001.
And yet, Piniella is not graced with a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Why? Surely, his managerial success indicates a career deserving of inclusion into the exclusive club in Cooperstown, located at 25 Main Street. And that success emanated from determination. Piniella managed as he playeda��with fierceness to win and reluctance to lose.
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner gave Piniella his first manager job. Working for Steinbrenner came with legendary tension. But in a 2002 article by Ira Berkow in the New York Times, Pinieall acknowledged the opportunity. a�?I owe my managerial career to George,a�? said Piniella. a�?He made me the manager and it was on-the-job training. He saw something in mea��I know he liked my intensity as a playera��and he gave me a shot.a�?
a�?Intensitya�? to say the least. Piniella had the resolve of a bull charging the matador.
For Yankee fans, Piniella was a fixture on the a�?Bronx Zooa�? teams that brought three American League pennants and two World Series titles to Yankee Stadium in the late 1970s. It was a volatile era, indeed. When Reggie Jackson joined the Yankees before the 1977 season, Piniella knew a storm was brewing around the star player and manager Billy Martin that would have made the tornado from The Wizard of Oz look like a slight breeze.
a�?It was obviously going to be explosive,a�? said Piniella in Bill Pennington’s 2015 book Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius. a�?And Billy was right, it did cause problems with Thurman [Munson] and Craig [Nettles]. But at the same time, let’s face it, Reggie was never Billy’s kind of player. I think Billy did resent him a little. He didn’t like most guys who called attention to themselves.a�?
On June 16, 1984, Piniella played in his last game. Naturally, he had the game-winning RBI. Even though Piniella went 0-for-5 on the day, his efforts contributed value to the Yankees beating the Orioles 8-3a��the crucial RBI came from a ground ball.
George Vecsey of the New York Times described Piniella’s psychological makeup in an account of the June 16th game. a�?His temper kept him in the minor leagues for most of the 1960’s, but later that temper hardened into a fierce athletic pride. Only rarely did the temper come through in New Yorka��but when it did, the tantrum was a beauty. Who will ever forget Piniella sitting on the grass, pounding his fists on the east, raging over being called out by Ron Luciano during the 1978 playoffs?a�?
Piniella won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1969, notching a .282 batting average, 139 hits, and 68 RBI for the Kansas City Royals. a�?Sweet Loua�? retired from playing during the 1984 season. His career statistics include a .291 batting average, 1,705 hits, and 305 doubles.