The Seattle Mariners have been in existence since 1977. The organization has yet to reach the pinnacle of MLB and win a title, but their more formative years came under the guidance and leadership of manager Lou Piniella. Sweet Lou, as they called him, not for his personality but for his swing, spent a decade of his life serving the Mariners and the city of Seattle. On Saturday, Aug. 9, the franchise that Piniella exuded so much passion for will make him the eighth member of the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame.
Piniella was born Aug. 28, 1943 in Tampa, FL. He was a left fielder with a career .291 average and took home AL ROY honors in 1969. In 1977 and ’78, he won consecutive World Series as a player for the New York Yankees. Piniella retired following the 1984 season with his greatest impact on the game yet to be realized.
After retirement, Piniella took a job with the Yankees as hitting coach. In 1988, after Billy Martin was fired midseason, he took over and became bench boss of the Bronx Bombers at age 45. Starting in 1990 for three seasons, he managed the Cincinnati Reds, winning the World Series in his first season by sweeping the heavily favored Oakland Athletics in four games straight.
In 1993, Sweet Lou made his way west to the Emerald City. Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson were the core of the team then, and the future looked bright. Piniella went 82-80 in his first season before a 49-63 setback in the 1994 strike shortened season. Then, in 1995, he was named AL Manager of the Year.
Piniella was the manager during what is perhaps the most memorable moment in Mariners history. During that 1995 season, fellow Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame inductee Dave Niehaus made the call from the broadcast booth when Martinez had the game winning hit that plated Joey Cora and Griffey to advance to the ALCS. So popular and infused with nostalgia is that moment in Mariners history that the song “My Oh My” by international recording artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, both natives of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle and Spokane, respectively), was written in tribute to Niehaus and the Mariners’ 1995 playoff run.
Piniella was again named AL Manager of the Year in 2001 when his Mariners won an incredible 116 games that season, tying a record set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs. Seattle lost the ALCS that year to the Yankees, and the franchise is yet to play post-season baseball ever since.
All in all, Piniella had a career record of 840-711 (.542) as skipper for the M’s. In the club’s 37 year history, seven of their 11 winning seasons came under Piniella’s leadership. Seattle experienced October baseball four times under him.
Piniella constantly entertained the crowds at the Kingdome and Safeco Field by his colorful discussions and antics with umpires and in press conferences. Piniella once said, “Mr. Steinbrenner taught me two things. One, your job is to win. But your second job, and almost as important, is to help put fannies in the seats. He said ‘when you argue with an umpire and get kicked out of a game, you put on a good show.’ Well, I took it to heart.”
Indeed you did, Piniella . Your big heart and passion for the game have not gone unnoticed. Tomorrow, the Mariners thank Piniella for all he did as their manager at the turn of the century. His recognition is well deserved.