LOU PINIELLA … MANAGER OF THE YEAR, 1995, 2001 … WORLD SERIES TITLE, CINCINNATI REDS, 1990 … BASEBALL MANAGER, YANKEES, REDS, MARINERS, DEVIL RAYS, CUBS … 2-TIME WORLD SERIES CHAMPION, 1977 78 … AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, 1969 … MLB OUTFIELDER, ORIOLES, INDIANS, ROYALS, YANKEES, 1964, 1968 1984 Now, there’s three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain. CASE Y STENGEL, Hall of Fame baseball manager LOU PINIELLA 167 Iwas having some success moving my way up in the lower minor league level, but that changed when I hit Double-A, in Elmira, New York, where I didn’t hit higher than .250. I was a pull hitter and I just never hit the ball to right field. So I was traded to the Cleveland Indians and I was sent to Portland Triple-A, where my season took on the same pattern: good power numbers, but low batting average. MY MOMENT In 1966, my manager pulled me into his office and said, Either you use the whole field at the plate or I will send you back down to Double-A. And then he added something that was so very important. He said, I’m willing, Lou, to come out and work with you every day before the game. And during the game, you will not be permitted to pull the ball.
If you pull the ball, even if it’s a hit, I’ll sit you out the next game. So he got me a bigger bat and we would work every day until I learned, for the first time, how to hit the ball to right and center field, using the whole field. I also learned to recognize a slider and a curveball. Looking back, if it were not for this one manager taking an interest in me and making me a more complete player, I would have floundered and I would never have become a major leaguer. LOU GROWS UP The difference between making it and not making for so many players is often what they do and don’t do off the field. Going pro after high school left a lot of room for me to grow and I knew it. I tried to pair up with the most mature player on the team, the guy with his head screwed on straight. See, you have a choice to run with the wrong crowd or run with the right crowd, and I chose the right crowd. The player I chose knew when to have a beer and when to hit the cage, so I mirrored his schedule and it really worked out for me.
So many more talented players failed because they could not say no to the nightlife. 168 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME MY MESSAGE AS A MANAGER: FOCUS My message to my players has always been to focus on baseball. Forget the restaurants, the clubs, the car dealerships. There will be a time in their lives for that, and while they’re playing is not the time. I also push my players to finish their degrees in the off-season. You also have to like people. Not everyone is going to be like you, but you have to learn how to get along with all types of people. I became a people person because I wanted to be successful. To do that you have to see how your players tick. More than anything else, I enjoyed watching players grow before my eyes. When it gets to the point where they get the big contract or win a championship, well, that’s the definition of rewarding to me.
OFF THE FIELD AND INTO THE BOOTH When I’m in the broadcasting booth, I pour myself into this job like I did as a player and a manager. I won’t compare myself to Joe Buck or Tim Mc- Carver, who are the best right now, but I will look to be myself and put in the time so I have something sensible to say. Keep in mind, I also think it’s important to be entertaining, so I will always try to inject some fun into what I have to say. WHAT IF BASEBALL DIDN’T PAN OUT? I think I would have figured it out and been okay. I consider myself a motivated guy, and I love challenges. If my career was tied to financial success, I think I would have done well. But I’m just glad I didn’t have to! THE WRAP Lou has done what most thought impossible: he’s had two incredibly successful careers, first as a player, then as a manager.
Like so many others, Sweet Lou needed someone to care about him, or else we never would have seen him on the major league stage. Maybe you’re in a position to help someone as well, and who knows, possibly even change the destiny of a young life. LOU PINIELLA
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