Lou Piniella was born Louis Victor Piniella on August 28, 1943 in Tampa, Florida. Sweet Lou, as he was later nicknamed because of his swing, was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cleveland Indians in 1962 and was later drafted by the Washington Senators in 1963. He made his major league debut at the age of 21 in 1964 with the Baltimore Orioles. After an attempt to make Piniella a catcher in 1968 by the Indians’ manager, Birdie Tebbetts, he was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the 1969 expansion draft. He was quickly traded to the Kansas City Royals and played for the Royals for the next 4 seasons. Piniella was the first player to bat in Royals history, a double to left off of Tom Hall. He won Rookie of the Year honors that same year and remained with the Royals until he was traded to the Yankees in 1973. Piniella made a name for himself with the Yankees has a hard nosed player that gave it his all every time he set foot on the field. Piniella quickly became a fan favorite despite platooning during most of his 11-year career with the Yankees. The Yankees made four trips to the fall classic during Piniella’s playing time in New York (1976-1978, 1981) and won two World Series championships (1977-1978). Piniella hit .319 in 22 World Series games with 10 RBI’s. While with the Yankees, Piniella was a part of 5 American East flags (1976-1978, 1980-1981) and 4 American League Pennants (1976-1978, 1981). He made the All-Star team in 1972 and retired from playing baseball in 1984.
Piniella was named manager of the Yankees in 1986 and they finished with a 90-72 record that season (.556), 5 1/2 games back in 2nd place behind the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees finished just 2 games back the year before with a 97-64 record (.602). Piniella managed one more full season with the Yankees in 1987 finishing in 4th place (89-73) and was named General Manager of the Yankees in 1988. Billy Martin took over, again, in the Bronx but managed only half the season. Piniella finished out the year with the interim tag attached to his title. The Yankees finished in 5th place and under Piniella they were 45-48 (.484) in 93 games.
In 1990 Piniella was hired by Bob Quinn to manage the Cincinnati Reds and that year they became the first team in National League history to spend an entire 162-game season in first place. Piniella led the Reds to victory over the Oakland A’s in the World Series and turned a 75-game winner the year before into World Series Champions.
- 1989 – 75-87, .463 – 17 games back
- 1990 – 91-71, .562
The Reds fell apart in 1991 because of injuries and finished in 5th place with a 74-88 record. In his last season in Cincinnati, the Reds bounced back and finished in 2nd place with a 90-72 record (.556) in 1992. Highlights from that season include the infamous scene in the locker room between him and Rob Dibble.
Piniella decided to return to the AL and manage the Seattle Mariners in 1993. The team responded with an 82-80 record and in the process Piniella became the 3rd manager in major league history to lead three different teams to a winning record in his first year with a new team.
- 1992 – 64-98, .395 – 32 games back
- 1993 – 82-80, .506 – 12 games back, 4th place
- 1995 – 76-66, .545 – 1st place
In 1995 Piniella was named American League Manager of the Year and led the Mariners to their first ever trip to the post season. While with the Mariners (1993-2002) he was named manager of the year twice (1995 and 2001) and led the Mariners to 116 wins in 2001. The 116 wins tied the 1906 Cubs for the most wins in major league history; the 1906 Cubs did accomplish the feat in 154 games.
- 1995 – AL Manager of the Year
- 2001 – AL Manager of the Year
After the 2002 season Piniella decided to head back to Tampa and manage his hometown Devil Rays. Three disappointing seasons later he left the Devil Rays on September 21, 2005 and spent the 2006 season in the broadcast booth.
Lou Piniella signed a 3-year contract to manage the Cubs on October 16, 2006…. The over/under on amount of games it will take Piniella to get ejected for the first time was a subject of great debate during the convention.
Piniella has his work cut out for him. The Cubs won just 66 games in 2006. Jim Hendry has spent more money this off-season than in several past off-seasons combined. Piniella has turned around two other organizations in a very short time. Several wonder if he can do it again….but it should be fun to watch him try.