Piniella vs. the curse
We were nearing the end of Lou Piniella's first spring training as Cubs manager when we saw him conversing with a Japanese TV reporter near the Cubs dugout at HoHoKam Park. All of a sudden, Piniella started shouting "I don't believe in curses," and stepped on a stuffed animal that was supposed to represent a billy goat, grounding it into the dirt with his right foot. We were all shocked.
As it turned out, Piniella, and later Ernie Banks, had been asked to snuff out the curse for a Japanese TV show.
"Just having fun," Piniella said. "If Mr. Cub can do it, I feel better."
Little did he know the "curse" would come up in conversations dozens of times during his Cubs career, especially after the holy water incident in Game 1 of the 2008 NL division series. The real curse, for Piniella, was a lifetime sentence of being asked about "the curse."
Lost during the years manager Lou Piniella was kicking dirt, hurling bases and expletives and channeling Billy Martin is this: Player Lou Piniella was pretty bleepin' good. He won rookie of the year with the Royals, was an All-Star, won two rings with the Yankees and retired with a .291 lifetime average, .319 in four World Series.
So forget the ranting and raving and store away this all-time Piniella memory: Yankees- Red Sox, 1978, one-game playoff, Yanks up 5-4, bottom of the ninth, Rick Burleson on first, Jerry Remy hits a knuckling line drive to right. Piniella loses the ball in the sun, but pretends to have it all the way, freezing Burleson before he catches on a bounce, holding runners to first and second. Smart manager? Sure. But Piniella was a really good, really smart player.
Piniella vs. Dibble
As entertaining as some of Lou Piniella's clashes with umpires were, we've seen similar antics over the years from other managers. What distinguishes Piniella from other noted dirt-kickers and hat-tossers is that the object of his outbursts weren't always the umps.
Flashback to 1992, when Piniella was managing the Cincinnati Reds. Speaking with reporters after a game, Reds closer Rob Dibble suggested that Piniella had misled the media about the condition of his pitching shoulder.
Rather than call Dibble into his office, Piniella decided to take a hands on-approach. The manager and the closer ended up scuffling in the locker room and had to be separated by teammates.
"I'd treat you like a man, but you don't want to be treated like a man," Piniella screamed at Dibble.
It was "Sweet Lou" at his best (or worst, depending on how you look at it).
Los Angeles Times
Lou Piniella had a pretty fair playing career, and he managed the Cincinnati Reds to an improbable sweep of the mighty Oakland A's in the 1990 World Series. Alas, so long as highlight shows shall live, Piniella shall be remembered for his mammoth meltdowns. Search for "Lou Piniella ejection" on YouTube and you get 58 results.
Our favorite, from his younger and feistier days, was as manager of the Seattle Mariners, in which he yanks first base out of the ground and then heaves it, not once but twice.
Bonus points for the shot of a grinning Alex Rodriguez, playing for Texas, who might have been thinking — given what we know now — "I'm on steroids, but Lou is the guy having the crazy side effects!"