This Day In Sports: ‘Sweet Lou’ hits the big Eight-Oh

August 28, 1943: Lou Piniella is born. Piniella managed five big league teams and guided one of them, the Seattle Mariners, to one of the most magical seasons in major league history in 2001, with 116 victories. He also managed the Cubs, Devil Rays, Yankees and Reds, winning the 1990 World Series with Cincinnati. Before becoming a skipper, Piniella hit .291 in a playing career that covered 16 full seasons, the last 11 with the Yankees. He had a .319 average in four World Series with the Yanks, two of them resulting in championships in 1977 and 1978.

The beginning of Piniella’s career was interesting. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1969, but he actually made his big league debut five years earlier as a September call-up with the Baltimore Orioles in 1964. Piniella didn’t play another MLB game until September of 1968 with the Cleveland Indians. He could have been a historical footnote as a member of the Seattle Pilots in their one-and-only season, as he was selected by the Pilots in the expansion draft. But Piniella was traded to the Royals, the AL’s other expansion team, before the season and officially became a 25-year-old rookie with KC. In fact, he was the first batter in franchise history.

Piniella’s managerial career began with the Yankees in 1986-87 and continued with the Yanks in 1988 when Billy Martin was fired for the fifth and final time. He managed Cincinnati from 1990-92, and although the Series title with the Reds may have been a career highlight, he was best-known for his 10 years in Seattle. Piniella was AL Manager of the Year in 1995, the year the Mariners beat the Yankees in the AL Division Series on Edgar Martinez’s legendary walk-off double in the 11th inning of Game 5. Then, of course, came the incredible 2001 campaign. But after the M’s fell in the AL Championship Series, Piniella requested a release from his contract in order to manage the Tampa Bay Rays in his hometown.

Piniella sometimes had a short fuse. One of baseball’s most infamous managerial tirades came in 1990, when Piniella was ejected after an argument with umpire Dutch Rennert in a Reds game at Riverfront Stadium against the Cubs. Piniella uprooted first base and hurled it into right field. Twice. A couple days later, the Cincinnati Enquirer sponsored a base-throwing contest to commemorate the incident. Cincinnati mayor’s was able to heave a base 43½ feet. Reds TV reporter Mary Krutko, high heels and all, then beat the mayor by five feet. Lou Piniella…80 years old today.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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