Saturday, July 18th, 2009
“Sweet Lou – Lou Piniella: A Life in Baseball”, by Melissa Isaacson is a new book, published in 2009. It contains a lot of valuable insight about the current manager of the Chicago Cubs, much of which I did not know. Here are some pearls:
One phrase which comes up over and over to describe Lou’s personality, is: “Lou’s Lou”. I guess this phrase is similar in some ways to “Manny being Manny”, and it is used by Mr. Piniella’s long time buddies to describe their friend. “Lou’s Lou”. What more can I say?
Lou was once told, “I never realized how intelligent you are because you hide it so well with your temper.”
I learned, from this book, that Lou’s grandparents emigrated to Florida from Spain. My dad had been telling me that “Piniella” is an Italian name. When I informed my dad that the name was, in fact, Spanish, he thought for a second, then smiled and said: “Hey, like my grandmother, she was from Spain, too.” Then The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan smiled and smiled. And it’s true. My great grandmother was Spanish, from Spain.
The book talks about Lou growing up in West Tampa and Ybor City. I’ve been to Ybor City and I liked it. Saw the old cigar factories and visited an active brewery. Check it out.
Johnny Bench is quoted: “When you’ve won as much as we have, I guess it’s like sex. It’s great every time, but you don’t have all those weird reactions like you did the first time.”
Lou learned a valuable lesson about managing while with the Yankees: “You can’t manage scared. Sooner or later, you’ll be fired – every manager knows that – but while you have the job, you must do it your own way.”
Lou credits Yogi Berra with showing him that: “Patience is an art. Just because you have a certain position of responsibility, it doesn’t mean you have to be uncivil.”
In describing his famous temper, Lou says: “I’ve got that Spanish temperament, that blood, whatever it is, and I get a little excited. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
George Steinbrenner once told Lou: “You’re the manager. You do the managing. I’m the owner. I’ll do the second-guessing. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
**I have to say that George Steinbrenner comes off in this book as being maybe just a little bit unbalanced.**
When Lou was working as the color analyst for the Yankees he enjoyed “the free time it afforded him for his family, golf, the track, and other business involvements. Most of all, he appreciated the noticeable absence of stress.”
When Lou was interviewing with Marge Schott for the job of managing the Cincinnati Reds, she wasn’t very familiar with him. “Marge Schott thought Piniella was a rum-punch drink you picked up in Puerto Rico. She didn’t know Piniella from a bale of hay.”
And Lou is credited with telling his players in Cincinnati: “We have 162 games – we’re going to win 50 for sure. We’re going to lose 50 for sure. I want you guys ready for the other 62. When they’re going to be, I don’t know, but that’s what I want you ready for, to bust our behinds for those other 62.”
We are reminded of “Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko’s Ex-Cubs Factor, Royko’s theory that the A’s had no chance because they had more ex-Cubs than the Reds.”
Bret Boone of the Seattle Mariners says Lou: “ended up being my all-time favorite manager that I ever played for”. Bret further describes Lou as: “a teddy bear who really, truly loves his players.” By the way, the Mariner’s slogan that year was “Refuse to Lose.”
Gary Shelton described Lou managing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as being “like Butch Cassidy leading the Teletubbies.” “In the end, as Shelton said, some managers plant and some harvest, and Piniella was ‘an autumn kind of guy on a spring sort of franchise’.” Lou eventually told the Tampa Bay ownership: “You can’t pay me enough money to lose.”
The final chapter of the book, titled “Curses”, is about Lou Piniella managing the Chicago Cubs. Of course, this was my favorite chapter in the book. And Lou is quoted as telling reporters: “Curses are for people without self-confidence.”
After being in Chicago a few months Lou declared: “Now I know why you guys haven’t won. It’s just everything here. Guys don’t take pitches; they don’t learn how to slide step in the minors. It’s crazy, I’m reteaching things guys should know. I’ve had to completely change the mentality. Any time something goes wrong, it’s ‘Oh well, it’s just the Cubs.’ That shit has to stop.”
Another reaction Lou had to Chicago: “What is it with the media in this town? I don’t shave and it’s a f***ing news story.”
Lou’s old friend Lee Elia once said about Cubs fans in Wrigley Field: “Eight-five percent of the f***in’ world is working. The other fifteen come out here.”
In as extremely prescient 2007 quote, Lou said: “You don’t take superstars out of the lineup.”
I enjoyed reading “Sweet Lou – Lou Piniella: A Life in Baseball”. I came away with a much deeper appreciation for Lou’s experience and track record as a manager. And with that in mind, I wish Lou and the Cubs and all Cubs fans the very best for the second half of the 2009 season.
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