Results tagged ‘ Lou Piniella ’
Former Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner and one of his favorite lieutenants, Lou Piniella, were among 10 candidates announced Monday by the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the Today’s Game Era ballot that will be voted on Dec. 5 during the Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md.
Steinbrenner was one of three executives along with former commissioner Bud Selig and longtime general manager John Schuerholz named to the ballot and Piniella one of two managers along with Davey Johnson. The other five candidates are former players who were passed over previously in elections by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — outfielders Harold Baines and Albert Belle, first basemen Mark McGwire and Will Clark and pitcher Orel Hershiser.
Any candidate who receives votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee will earn election to the Hall of Fame and will be inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y., July 30, 2017, along with any electees who emerge from the 2017 BBWAA election, which will be announced Jan. 18, 2017.
The Today’s Game Era was one of four Eras Committees identified in July when the Hall’s board of directors announced changes to the Era Committee system, which provides an avenue for Hall of Fame consideration to managers, umpires and executives, as well as players retired for more than 15 seasons.
Steinbrenner purchased controlling interest in the Yankees in 1973 and oversaw the franchise’s path to seven World Series championships. An early adopter in baseball’s free agency era of the mid-1970s, Steinbrenner’s Yankees compiled a winning percentage of .565 and totaled 11 American League pennants in his 37 full years as the team’s owner. Steinbrenner was also influential in various marketing initiatives, including revenue-building enterprises such as cable television, the creation of the Yankees’ own network (YES) and the construction of the current Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009, the year before his death at the age of 80.
Piniella, 73, is being considered for his career as a manager, which included two stints with the Yankees, a team for which he wore many hats. “Sweet Lou,” a fan favorite, served the Yankees as a player, coach, manager, general manager and television analyst. In 23 seasons as a manager for the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs, Piniella won 1,835 games, the 14th highest total in major league history. He won a World Series in 1990 with the Reds in a four-game sweep of the Athletics and piloted the Mariners to an AL-record 116 victories in 2001. He won Manager of the Year Awards in both leagues, in 1995 and 2001 in the AL with the Mariners and in 2008 in the National League with the Cubs. Piniella batted .291 in his 18-season playing career and won World Series rings with the Yankees in 1977 and ’78.
The 10 Today’s Game Era finalists were selected by the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee (disclosure: I am the committee’s chair) from all eligible candidates among managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players whose most significant career impact was realized during the time period from 1988 through the present.
Eligible candidates include players who played in at least 10 major league seasons, who are not on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list, and have been retired for 15 or more seasons; and managers, umpires and executives with 10 or more years in baseball. All active executives age 70 or older may have their careers reviewed as part of the Era Committee balloting process, regardless of the position they hold in an organization, and regardless of whether their body of work has been completed.
The Today’s Game Era ballot was determined this fall by the HOC comprised of myself as well as 10 other veteran historians: Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun); Jim Henneman (formerly Baltimore Sun); Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau); Bill Madden (formerly New York Daily News); Jim Reeves (formerly Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Tracy Ringolsby (MLB.com); Glenn Schwarz (formerly San Francisco Chronicle); Dave van Dyck (Chicago Tribune); and Mark Whicker (Los Angeles News Group).
The 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed electorate charged with the review of the Today’s Game Era ballot will be announced later this fall. The Today’s Game Era Committee will meet twice in a five-year period, with the next meeting scheduled for the fall of 2018.
The Eras Committees consist of four different electorates: Today’s Game (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball from 1988 to the present); Modern Baseball (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball from 1970 to 1987); Golden Days (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball from 1950 to 1969); and Early Baseball (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball prior to 1950).
The Today’s Game and Modern Baseball eras will be considered twice each in a five-year period, with the Golden Days era considered once every five years and the Early Baseball era considered once every 10 years.
It rained all over Alex Rodriguez’s parade Friday night. A fierce thunderstorm with nor’easter winds whipping the rain shortened the pregame ceremony prior to Rodriguez’s last game with the Yankees.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who worked out an agreement with Rodriguez whereby he will be released Saturday in order to sign a new contract as a consultant, presented A-Rod with a framed jersey No. 13 and a base signed by teammates. Mariano Rivera escorted Rodriguez’s daughters onto the field and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson escorted A-Rod’s mother. Former Yankees outfielder and manager Lou Piniella, who was A-Rod’s first major league manager in Seattle, was featured on a taped message on the center field screen.
Whether Rodriguez intended to make a speech is not known, but he and the rest of the group were forced into the dugout because of the heavy downpour that delayed the start of the game for half an hour.
After the tarpaulin was removed and the grounds crew began working on the field, Rodriguez did wind springs in right field to hearty applause from the sellout crowd. The announcement of his name in the starting lineup for the last time in pinstripes drew the loudest ovation by far.
The Yankees will get some help Monday, although it will not be in an area of need. Aroldis Chapman, the flame-throwing relief pitcher, will come off his 30-day suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, but the back end of the bullpen is the least of the Yankees’ woes.
The Yankees already have plenty of strength there with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. Chapman, acquired by trade in the off-season from the Reds, will give the Yankees the most formidable bullpen trio since Cincinnati’s legendary “Nasty Boys” — Randy Myers, Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton — for Lou Piniella’s 1990 World Series champions.
What remains at question is how often the Yankees can give these three relievers leads to protect. The bats went silent again Sunday night as they were tamed by knuckleballer Steven Wright, who came within one out of a shutout ruined by Brett Gardner’s third home run of the season. It was one of only three hits by the Yanks, whose hopes of sweeping the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium were dashed in Boston’s 5-1 victory.
Luis Severino’s record fell to 0-5, although manager Joe Girardi expressed encouragement that the second-year righthander is turning the corner. Severino was clocked for three home runs — two by David Ortiz — but he had nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. The Red Sox added a fourth home run in the eighth as Xander Bogaerts took Chasen Shreve deep. The way Wright pitched, Severino’s fate was sealed In the first inning when he walked leadoff batter Mookie Betts and gave up a home run to Dustin Pedroia in the first row of the right field stands.
Big Papi, on the other hand, launched a pair of bombs that were milestones in a career he plans to conclude at the end of this season, a decision that looks awfully premature considering the way he is swinging the bat. Ortiz pushed his career home run total to 512, passing Mel Ott on the career list and tying Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews, three Hall of Fame sluggers. Of that total, 454 have come with the Red Sox, the second most in club history behind only Ted Williams, whose career total of 521 were all hit for Boston.
Ortiz has just been taking batting practice against the Yankees this season. In six games against them, Big Papi is batting .364 with five home runs and seven RBI in 22 at-bats. The Stadium crowd let him have it with the boos for his embarrassing tirade against umpire Ron Kulpa Friday night, but he pretty much quieted everybody with the pair of massive shots off Severino.
The Yankees had one hit over the first six innings against Wright, 30, a journeyman who has restarted his career with the knuckleball. They did not have a runner in scoring position until the seventh when Starlin Castro led off with a double to right. He crossed to third on a flyout but was thrown out trying to get back to the bag after deciding against trying to score on a pitch in the dirt. Castro, who was picked off second base four games ago, hurt a rib on the play and was pinch-hit for in the ninth, but Girardi said he did not consider the injury serious and expected Castro to play Monday night when the World Series champion Royals open a four-game set at the Stadium.
Chapman will be there, too. Can the Yankees give him reason to get into the game. Yankees fans can only hope so.
The current issue of Yankees Magazine features an article I did on Tino Martinez, who was honored Saturday at Yankee Stadium with a plaque in Monument Park. Tino still couldn’t believe it until he finally got a look at the plaque itself.
The inscription reads:
CONSTANTINO “TINO” MARTINEZ
NEW YORK YANKEES
1996 – 2001, 2005
KNOWN FOR HIS POWERFUL BAT AND SUPERLATIVE DEFENSE AT FIRST BASE, MARTINEZ WAS A FAN FAVORITE ON FOUR YANKEES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS. HIT TWO OF THE MOST MEMORABLE HOME RUNS IN YANKEES POSTSEASON HISTORY – A GRAND SLAM IN GAME 1 OF THE 1998 WORLD SERIES AND A GAME-TYING, NINTH-INNING HOMER IN GAME 4 OF THE 2001 FALL CLASSIC. AMASSED 192 HOME RUNS AND 739 RBI IN SEVEN SEASONS WITH THE CLUB.
DEDICATED BY THE
NEW YORK YANKEES
JUNE 21, 2014
I was thinking after I finished the interview with him for the piece that I must have talked with Tino hundreds of times and thought I knew everything there was to know about him. But what I was not aware of until that interview was that Martinez wanted to succeed Don Mattingly as the Yankees’ first baseman.
It is always a tough assignment for a player to come to a new team and try to replace a legend. There is an enormous amount of pressure in that situation. This is not to say Martinez did not feel that pressure because he certainly did. He could have avoided it. There were other clubs interested, the Cubs and the Padres specifically, who coveted Martinez if the Mariners indeed were going to trade him after the 1995 season.
The Yankees were, too, of course, and Martinez told his manager, Lou Piniella, that New York was where he wanted to be. That was the part of which I was not aware beforehand. Martinez actually pushed for the trade despite knowing that a huge spotlight would be foisted on him as the man to follow Donnie Baseball.
Tino explains in the article that he had the utmost respect for Mattyingly, but that he was retiring as a player and his team needed a new first baseman. Martinez said he felt it would have been different if Mattingly had become a free agent and signed with another team. The pressure then would have beeb worse. But Mattingly’s retirement left a void, and Martinez was anxious to try and fill it.
He did all the smart things, beginning with not wearing Mattingly’s old uniform No. 23, the same numeral Martinez wore in Seattle. I think Yankees fans appreciated that sign of respect right from the get-go.
Martinez pointed out in the article and reiterated Saturday that he got off to a slow start in ’96 and that fans did not warm up to him immediately. But once he took off, so did the fans, whom he thanked Saturday.
His former manager, Joe Torre, and teammates Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill and David Cone plus former trainer Gene Monahan took part in the pregame ceremony in which Martinez continued to express surprise that he was so honored.
From now on, whenever he comes to Yankee Stadium Tino can stop by Monument Park and see that the plaque is more than a dream.
Nearly 50 former Yankees players and managers will participate in festivities at the 67th annual Old-Timers’ Day Sunday, June 23, at Yankee Stadium. Ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 11:15 a.m. with the traditional Old-Timers’ game to follow, both of which will be aired exclusively on the YES Network.
The Yankees will play the Rays at 2:05 p.m., also on YES. Stadium gates will open to ticket-holding guests at 10 a.m. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 11 a.m. for the program.
The Old-Timers headliners are five Hall of Famers – Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson and Reggie Jackson. Former Yankees and current YES broadcasters David Cone, John Flaherty, Paul O’Neill and Lou Piniella will also take part.
Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, who helped lead the Yankees to three consecutive World Series titles from 1998-2000, will make his Old-Timers’ Day debut along with Flaherty, Brian Dorsett, Todd Greene, Scott Kamieniecki and Andy Phillips.
Joining the Hall of Famers and former Yankees on the baselines will be the widows of five legendary Yankees – Arlene Howard, widow of Elston Howard; Helen Hunter, widow of Jim “Catfish” Hunter; Jill Martin, widow of Billy Martin; Diana Munson, widow of Thurman Munson; and Kay Murcer, widow of Bobby Murcer.
Here is a list of those expected to attend:
Luis Arroyo, Steve Balboni, Jesse Barfield, Yogi Berra, Ron Blomberg, Brian Boehringer, Dr. Bobby Brown, Homer Bush, Chris Chambliss, Horace Clarke, Jerry Coleman, David Cone, Bucky Dent, Brian Dorsett, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, John Flaherty, Whitey Ford, Oscar Gamble, Joe Girardi, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Todd Greene, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, Sterling Hitchcock, Arlene Howard, Helen Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly, Don Larsen, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Jill Martin, Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, Diana Munson, Kay Murcer, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Joe Pepitone, Andy Phillips, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, Mickey Rivers, Mel Stottlemyre, Mike Torrez, David Wells, Roy White, Bernie Williams.
Hey, remember when the Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda, which prompted questions about whether he could handle the American League? It was a legitimate concern. I recall years ago Lou Piniella telling me to beware of the records of pitchers on teams from southern California.
“The ball doesn’t carry well in night games in Los Angeles and San Diego,” Sweet Lou said. “A lot of those guys go elsewhere and their good numbers don’t transfer well.”
Kuroda was only so-so in his four seasons with the Dodgers, a 41-46 record despite a 3.45 ERA, so it was fair to wonder how he would do in a league that has an extra hitter in the lineup and in a division – the AL East – that has hitter-friendly venues and some dangerous lineups.
Is anyone questioning Kuroda now? Probably not even Piniella.
The Japanese righthander may have been the Yankees’ most reliable pitcher last year and has been their top starter this season as well. Kuroda improved his 2013 record to 5-2 with a 2.31 ERA Sunday in the Yankees’ 4-2 victory over the Royals. After the Yankees overcame a 1-0, first-inning deficit with a three-run third powered by a two-run home run by Robinson Cano and a solo shot by Vernon Wells in successive at-bats off Kansas City starter Ervin Santana, Kuroda did not allow another run until the eighth, his last inning.
It was not an overpowering outing by Kuroda, who had only one strikeout, but it was no less formidable. Kuroda got 16 outs in the infield and kept the Royals hitless in three at-bats with runners in scoring position. KC would make it 0-for-4 in the eighth when David Robertson retired Billy Butler on a fly to center stranding a runner on second base.
Kuroda is now 21-13 with a 3.13 ERA during his time with the Yankees. His adjustment to the AL has been extraordinary.
The Yankees’ sweep of the Royals ran their winning streak to five games heading into a makeup doubleheader Monday at Cleveland. It was a far more pleasant experience at Kauffman Stadium this year than last for Mariano Rivera, who was honored by the Royals in a pre-game ceremony featuring Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. Rivera, who tore up his left knee in KC last May, earned his 15th save in 15 opportunities this season and his 29th in a row against the Royals. Mo was 37-for-39 in save chances against them in his career.
In addition to his ninth home run, Wells had two other hits, both singles, and a stolen base. Wells has had a strong trip, batting .360 with three home runs and seven RBI in 25 at-bats and overall is hitting .295 with 20 RBI. With Curtis Granderson close to returning to active duty with the Yanks, Wells promises to give manager Joe Girardi some headaches trying to figure out how his outfield will look on a daily basis.
Considering all the difficulty Girardi has had dealing with an abundance of Yankees injuries, he probably won’t mind that challenge.
The Yankees got a break with the third of their four home runs in the second inning Monday night. There was no question about the legitimacy of the drives by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, but the blow by Russell Martin. . .well.
Cano started the onslaught with his 31st homer, a shot into the net protecting Monument Park in center field. After a one-out single by Nick Swisher, Granderson launched a 1-2 pitch from Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz into the second deck in right field inside the foul pole for his 41st homer. Martin next hit an opposite-field fly ball that landed above the auxiliary scoreboard.
It required a review by the umpires before Martin’s 21st home run became official. I found it hard to believe that four sets of eyes didn’t seen what my set did, which was that the ball struck the outstretched arm of a fan leaning over the top of the scoreboard. Fortunately for the Yankees, the umps saw it the way they did.
It all proved inconsequential because the Yankees kept scoring – five more times for a total of nine runs, the most they have had in one inning since July 30 last year when they scored 12 in the first against the Orioles. A sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez, a two-run double by Cano and a two-run homer by Mark Teixeira (No. 24) in his first game back in three weeks from a left calf strain had them rolling to a 9-0 lead.
The four home runs tied the franchise record, accomplished twice before June 30, 1977 at Toronto and June 21, 2005 at Yankee Stadium against the Rays. Cliff Johnson hit three home runs in the ’77 game, an 11-5 Yankees victory, two in the eighth inning, along with Thurman Munson and Lou Piniella. In the ’05 game, a 20-11 Yankees victory, Gary Sheffield hit one of his two home runs in the eighth inning, along with A-Rod, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada.
A couple of years ago, I did a lengthy question-and-answer session with longtime Yankees favorite Lou Piniella about Ichiro Suzuki. Lou was the manager of the Mariners when Ichiro came to the major leagues in 2001. Here are 10 questions from that interview that I think should give Yankees fans some insight into the career of their newest outfielder.
Q1. Can you remember your first impression of Ichiro?
A: Ichiro first came to the Mariners as an exchange player in the spring of 2000. He was with us during the pre-exhibition period because he was not allowed to play in games. Watching him work out, I could tell that he could run, he could throw and he had good bat control. But we didn’t see him under game conditions.
Q2. Before the 2001 season began, did you expect Ichiro to have as much success in the majors as he has had? Why?
A: I could not predict all that would happen, but no, it does not surprise me. He was a disciplined hitter with great physical tools. That spring with us in 2001, he put the ball in play, utilized his speed and didn’t strike out much. We got the feeling we had something special here. He was already a star player in Japan, so really the only question was how he would do in the 162-game schedule.
I remember our general manager, Pat Gillick, worked very hard to sign Ichiro. We thought it we got lucky that we might have a really good player for six or seven or maybe eight years. And look, he’s still playing at a high level in his 10th year in the big leagues.
Q3. I heard you were so worried about Ichiro’s power part because he hit only to the opposite field during preseason games in 2001 until you asked him to pull the ball. Is that a true story?
A: Yes. The first few games for us that spring Ichiro hit the ball to left field exclusively. I remember talking to his translator and asking him if Ichiro could try to pull the ball so we could get a better idea of what he could do. The next day, Ichiro led off and pulled the first pitch over the right field wall for a home run. I saw what I needed to see and left him alone after that.
Q4. Can you analyze the reasons why Ichiro was able to have 200 hits for 10 consecutive seasons? Which part of Ichiro’s hitting is impressive to you?
A: He has great hand-eye coordination, which is important for a hitter, and he keeps himself in great physical shape. He can expand the zone a bit by chasing the ball up, but he puts the fat part of the bat on the ball so consistently and gets out of the batter’s box so quickly that infielders have to cheat on him. He actually is moving to first base often when he hits the ball, but he keeps his upper body straight and follows through on his swing. You don’t see anyone else do that.
Q5. From the manager’s point of view, Ichiro should have selected more pitches to hit? Or he should have taken more walks?
A: He is not going to walk much, that’s true, but he won’t strike out that much, either. His on-base percentage is not as high as maybe it should be for someone with a high batting average, but look, he gets on base with hits, so why worry about walks? His eyesight is superb, so it is not a matter of pitch recognition. He is just so adept at putting the ball in play. He’ll foul off a lot of pitches, but he does not swing and miss very much. Pitchers don’t want to walk him because of his speed on the bases. So if they get behind in the count, he still may get something to hit.
Q6. Do you have any specific memory of Ichiro during your managing career with the Mariners?
A: It was during his first season, a game in Oakland. I don’t remember the hitter or runner, but I do know that the runner was very fast. He was on first base when the hitter drove the ball into the gap in right-center. Ichiro chased down the ball, and I was thinking I hope he throws the ball to second base to keep the hitter from advancing because I didn’t think he had a prayer of getting the other runner going from first to third. He made a perfect throw to third and got the guy. It surprised the runner, my third baseman, the coaches, me and even the umpire. It’s still one of the greatest fielding plays I have ever seen.
Q7. Do you think he can reach 3,000 hits in the majors?
A: The key is for him to stay healthy. He stays in great shape physically, which he will have to continue to do to get to 3,000 hits. I think it’s possible, but it won’t be easy. I figure it would take him at least four more years. When you get to his age , you start to deal with some injuries. If he can avoid that, he has a good shot at it.
Q8. Did you see any differences on Ichiro between now and the time when you were the manager?
A: The only thing I see is that he doesn’t score as many runs, but the Mariners are a much different team from the one I had when we had a strong offensive club. Put some good hitters around him, and he’ll score 100 runs again on a regular basis. He still runs very well, has great instincts in the outfield and plays with so much pride.
Q9. What do you think about how Ichiro’s speed helps his hit record?
A: It’s a great asset. As I said before, infielders have to be on their toes with him. You see them often hurrying their throws on what are otherwise routine ground balls for any other hitter.
Q10. Should Ichiro make it to Hall of Fame? Why?
A: Absolutely. He is one of the greatest leadoff hitters in the history of the major leagues. He has excelled at nearly every aspect of the game. Ichiro is not a power hitter, but he has still hit his share of home runs, almost 100, I think. He’s a great hitter, a great base runner, a great fielder with a great arm, a game breaker. All of those qualities add up to me as a Hall of Fame player.
The scene changed for Ichiro Suzuki Friday night at Yankee Stadium. For the first time he wore a home uniform in his major-league career that did not have ‘Mariners’ across the breast. The pinstripes and inter-locking ‘NY’ of the Yankees seemed to fit him perfectly.
Across the way was the team that is the chief rival of the Yankees managed by the first American to sign Ichiro’s praises. It was during the 2000 World Series that Bobby Valentine, then manager of the Mets, spoke glowingly of Suzuki from the skipper’s time in Japan. Valentine at the time tried to convince the Mets to get in the bidding for Ichiro, but the front office disagreed. Suzuki ended up in Seattle, which turned out to be a very good landing place for him.
Suzuki was embraced by his manager, Lou Piniella, and a city with a sizeable Asian population. Baseball fans throughout North America came to appreciate the fleet-footed outfielder with the penchant for spraying line drives and beating out infield grounders that he totaled more than 200 hits a season for 10 consecutive years.
Valentine recalled before Friday night’s opener of the Yankees-Red Sox series that in his days in the Japanese Pacific League Ichiro’s speed was such that he was a threat to beat out ground balls to the first baseman for hits.
“He was really, really fast,” Valentine said.
That was a long time, however. The Ichiro Suzuki of today is 38 years old. He is still a threat with his speed but not as great as in previous years. It also remains to be seen how he will handle the spotlight on a daily basis. The Mariners team he broke in with, in 2001, won 116 games and was a postseason team that lost to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
The Mariners have not been back to the playoffs since. Except for the All-Star Game at AT&T Park in San Francisco in 2007 when he electrified a national television audience with an inside the park home run and two other hits to earn Most Valuable Player honors, Suzuki has not been on the national stage all that much. You don’t see the Mariners on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball as often as we once did when Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez were still in Seattle.
Ichiro cannot escape the spotlight now. The Yankees are in first place in the AL East and as such a major contender for a possible berth in the World Series. They are hoping Suzuki will be a big part of that quest.
“I’m confident New York is not going to be a big thing for him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “This guy has been there before. He is going to be on nationally televised games a lot.”
It all starts Friday night with the Bleacher Creatures’ roll call, which is something he knows about, even from Seattle. It seems that Yankees fans that came to see them play at Safeco Field did their version of the roll call before those games. Suzuki is bound to appreciate the Stadium version a lot better.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Former Yankees managers Lou Piniella and Joe Torre were among the baseball people who came to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend. I kidded them that they must be rehearsing for when their time comes for induction. In another two years, both will likely be on the Veterans Committee’s ballot from the Expansion Era for their careers as managers.
Lou was here for both of Sunday’s inductees, Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo. Larkin was the shortstop on Piniella’s Reds team that won the 1990 World Series in a sweep of the Athletics. During his time as manager of the Cubs, Piniella also became a friend of Santo, the former third baseman who later was a fixture at Wrigley Field as a broadcaster.
Santo died last year, and his widow, Vicki, gave a moving acceptance speech. How she got through it without breaking down was amazing to me. She painted a brilliant picture of the man who was as identified with the Cubs as former teammates Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, who were on hand for the ceremony. They were among the 45 Hall of Famers who attended the ceremony, including Yankees favorites Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Dave Winfield, Phil Niekro and Rickey Henderson.
Larkin told a story about how Piniella addressed the Reds in 1990 before the start of spring training and explained to them that he did not like losing and that he did not intend for this team to lose. Cincinnati won its first nine games that season and went wire to wire to win the National League West, the division the Reds were in before the NL Central was created with realignment in 1994. They defeated the Pirates in the NL Championship Series before sweeping the A’s in the World Series, so Lou kept his promise about not losing.
Larkin was that baseball rarity that played his entire career for his hometown team. I could think of only three other Hall of Famers who did that, and all were Yankees – Lou Gehrig, Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford. Gehrig grew up on the West Side of Manhattan, the Scooter in Brooklyn and Ford in the Queens neighborhood of Astoria, and each spent his entire playing career in the Bronx.
I remember when Paul O’Neill was traded to the Yankees from the Reds in 1993, and a lot of people said that he would have trouble playing in New York. O’Neill, who was also on that ’90 Reds team and like Larkin had grown up in Cincinnati, told me once that he never had any doubts that he would do well in New York. He was not unfamiliar with the city because his sister, Molly, then the food critic for the New York Times, lived there for many years.
“There was a lot more pressure on me playing for the Reds because it was my hometown,” Paulie said. “I never felt that kind of pressure in New York. The fans in New York welcomed me and got behind me early on. I enjoyed the New York experience a lot more than Cincinnati.”
Torre came up for Saturday’s program at Doubleday Field for former teammate Tim McCarver, who was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting alongside Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun as the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for baseball writing. Joe and Timmy were teammates with the Cardinals and have remained good friends over the years.
Among the people McCarver credited for his playing career, which covered four decades from 1959 through 1980, was Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey, a career Yankee. McCarver said that in those pre-draft years of the 1950s that he almost signed with the Yankees because he was so impressed by Dickey but wound up signing with the Cardinals.
“Bill Dickey gave me the greatest piece of advice I ever received for a catcher,” McCarver said. “He told me, ‘Be a pitcher’s friend.’ And I am happy to say that a couple of Hall of Famers who are up on this stage with me have been lifelong friends, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton.”