Lou Piniella is the keynote speaker for the Hutch Award, which will be given to Giants pitcher Barry Zito tomorrow at Safeco Field. Lou flew out yesterday from his Tampa home, and spent today making the rounds. That included an appearance at the Hutch School, the nation’s only full-time school for the children and siblings of cancer victims, as well as the youthful patients themselves. It’s a wonderful place, and I consider myself privileged to have visited the school for the past 15 years to watch Hutch winners and keynote speakers like Joe Morgan , Jim Palmer, Ken Griffey Sr., and Johnny Bench interact with the kids.
No one has done it better than Lou, who had both the kids in attendance, and the adults, enthralled. The first picture above shows Lou in a standard pose with the Hutch School students. Then, they asked everyone to be silly for another picture, so I now present perhaps the only photo in existence with Lou Piniella sticking out his tongue that didn’t involve an umpire.
Speaking of which, one of the kids, probably a first- or second-grader, innocently asked Piniella if he had ever yelled at an umpire. After the grownups had stopped tittering, Lou said, “I can’t lie. Yeah, I’ve yelled at umpires. But they’ve yelled back at me, too.”
One of the teachers told Piniella that he asked the students to look up “Lou Piniella throwing bases” on YouTube. Piniella chuckled and shook his head.
“I’ve only done that twice in my whole career, but I get reminded of it about once every 10 to 15 days on ESPN or CNN or somewhere. Look, I’m not proud of the fact I did it. I’m really not. I wish I hadn’t. When I see it now, it makes me shudder and say, “What the heck did it I do that for?’ I did in once in Seattle and once in Cincinnati. It was always first base. I don’t know why I never picked up second or third base.
“Why did I do it? Out of frustration more than anything. You go out to argue with the umpire, he gives you a smart remark, and before you know it…When I did it in Cincinnati, I was younger. When I did it in Seattle, my back hurt for about 3 or 4 days. And that was the end of doing that, believe me.”
Piniella waxed nostalgic about his days in Seattle, saying that his 10 years with the Mariners were the highlight of his managerial career — and this is a guy who won a World Series in Cincinnati. As he has done many times before, Piniella said that not winning a World Series, or getting to one, with Seattle is the big regret of his career. He said that one of the favorite pieces of memorabilia hanging in his office is the lineup card and baseball from the final out of the Mariners’ record 116th win in 2001.
“What’s amazing is that it really belongs in Cooperstown,” he said, ”and they’ve never called for it. I’m happy to have it at my office.”
With Zito being honored tomorrow, Piniella noted that he pitched for the 2001 Oakland A’s, who lost to the Yankees in the Division Series that year. The Yankees, of course, went on to oust the Mariners in the ALCS.
“We wanted the Yankees to beat Oakland, because we wanted to beat the Yankees,” he said. “At least, I did. I think I was wishing for the wrong thing, because we had a lot of success against Oakland that year.”
OK, so maybe Piniella’s recollection isn’t so great on that one. The Mariners were actually 10-9 against the A’s in 2001, their lowest winning percentage against any team. They were 6-3 against the Yankees.
Piniella, who stepped down as manager of the Cubs in August of 2010, insists he’s never going to manage again. He is content doing analysis on about 15 to 20 Yankees games a year on the YES Network.
“People don’t realize, I’ll be 70 years old this year,” he said. “When do you enjoy the rest of your time on earth?”
Makes sense to me.