By Jason Klein
Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 12/9/10
During his managing days, “Sweet”
Lou Piniella was brash, animated, and at times, heated. While visiting with fans at the Steiner Sports 1977-1978 Yankees Reunion Event, “Sweet” Lou was just sweet.
A slimmed down Piniella was excited, full of energy, and at complete peace with his decision to leave the dugout for the final time as a manager. After signing some great new collectibles for the Steiner Sports inventory, Piniella discussed his retirement plans and addressed the possibility of a return to baseball in the future.
Jason Klein: The 77-78 Yankees are often referred to as the Bronx Zoo. Based on what went on those years, is that a fair nickname?
Lou Piniella: It was a very professional team. We had our problems, off the field from time to time, maybe in the clubhouse, but when the game started, guys were very professional and played very, very well. It was during the time when we had a lot of new characters, a lot of new players, and a lot of change. Sometimes, it takes a while for things to settle down. Look, one thing is for certain, the ‘76, ‘77, and ‘78 Yankees teams, especially the ‘77 and ‘78 teams, were really, really good teams. 1977 was our first World Championship and ‘78 was a repeat as World Champions, and that was the team that overcame a lot of obstacles.
JK: Who was the largest personality on those teams?
LP: We had a lot of them. Look, we had a 1977 team that won a World Championship and we added two Hall of Famers: Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage. That’s quite an addition for a team over the winter. I think, going into Spring Training, because of that, the team was probably a little over confident, had some injuries early in the year, and by the All-Star break, we were 14 and a half games back behind the Red Sox. We had to battle out of that to repeat as World Champions. I mean, we had Thurman [Munson], Willie Randolph, Sparky Lyle, he was a character for you, Ron Guidry, what a great pitcher, Donny Gullet, who is here, [Graig] Nettles, what a great player he was, on and on. I can name a heck of a lot more but no, we were really professional people. You know, did we all get along a hundred percent? No. But when the umpires said, “Play Ball,” We got along great, and that’s why the team won.
JK: You have been in baseball since 1964. With your recent retirement from the Cubs, what will you miss the most about being in the game?
LP: The competition. Putting on the uniform. I’ve done it since 1962 on the professional level, and in 1964 I got a “cup of coffee,” I got back in 1967, 1968 and in 1969 I was up for good. I played for 17-plus years and I managed for 23-plus years. That’s a long time with it being part of my life. Now, I’m going to enjoy my retirement. Yeah, I’m going to miss the uniform, I will miss the competition, but at the same time, I’m going to really enjoy my post-playing days, enjoy my grandkids. I’m going to be able to do things I haven’t been able to do. Spring Training starts in February, then you go onto the baseball season which goes into October, especially when you get into the World Series and the post season, and, I haven’t had any summers. I’m looking forward to doing things that I’ve always wanted to do. This spring, I’ll start doing some of those things, and then into the summer, and then we’ll see, we’ll see. My first year I think I’m going to be fine.
JK: What role could you see yourself in if you decided to come back at some point?
LP: I won’t manage again. A consulting job for an organization, you know, I think I would have some good thoughts and some good ideas to lend, and help out any way that would be needed. It wouldn’t be on a uniform basis at all. That part of my life is behind me.
JK: How special is it to re-unite with all of your old teammates at an event like this?
LP: You know, it’s amazing. I played in New York for twelve years, almost thirteen, and I played with a lot of great guys. A lot of wonderful, wonderful people. I got to know their families, I got to know their kids, and I remember the guys on the teams that we won with a lot more than when we had not as good a team. So, is winning important? I think so. But it’s great coming here, seeing all these guys, it’s been a long time. I basically have been working, so the guys that are here, they do these shows, and have these gatherings like Old Timer’s Day, so they get a chance to see each other a lot more. For me, it’s more of a treat because I haven’t been able to do these things because I’ve been in uniform.
According to “Sweet” Lou, putting on that uniform will no longer be an issue.
Connect With Jason