Retiring Cubs manager Lou Piniella was truly one of a kind
This is my 16th year as a professional journalist, which means I've seen some amazing things.
I was there when
I went on an undercover prostitution sting with Nashville's police department, jumped 13,000 feet from an airplane and interviewed both
It has been a career of memories. Great, wonderful, unforgettable memories.
Yet one moment reigns over all others.
In May 2001, I was in to Seattle to write a profile of
"Just go on in right now," I was told. "Lou's got a few moments."
Upon entering Piniella's office, I was greeted by his voice from an adjacent room. "C'mon in," he said. "I'm here."
I entered, of all possible places, the bathroom, where Piniella stood at a urinal. His left hand was being used to urinate. His right hand, aloft in the air, held a lit cigarette and a turkey-and-Swiss hoagie. "What can I do for you?" he said. "Ask away ..."
With that, my life was complete. The Eiffel Tower would never again look especially spectacular. The Grand Canyon is merely a big hole. A rainbow is (yawn) a rainbow and a newborn baby is just another kid with a loud cry.
I mean, what could possibly compare to the sight of Lou Piniella simultaneously peeing, eating, smoking and talking?
Hence, I was more than a tad sad to learn yesterday that Piniella, in his 23rd year as a major league manager, will be retiring at the end of the season.
Put simply, I have never covered anyone even remotely like Sweet Lou, a genuinely good and decent person who -- unlike many of his peers -- has always seemed to grasp the quasi-ludicrousness of grown men making millions of dollars to dress in pajamas and play a child's game. Much like
Early in his managerial career with the Yankees and Reds, beat writers excitedly anticipated Piniella's inevitable on-field meltdowns, which resulted in some of the best dirt-kicking and base-throwing we've ever seen. Heck, he had been the exact same way as a hotheaded major league outfielder (back when he was with the Yankees in the late 1970s, teammates loved reminding Piniella that he had once been beaten out for a job in Kansas City by
But as the years passed and Piniella gradually mellowed, what writers enjoyed most was kicking back and listening to him talk. With a cigarette dangling from his lip (Piniella only smoked during the season), the skipper could reel off great stories about his dealings with
The truth is, managers come and go. If, as
In Lou Piniella, however, there is something truly different. Is he a Hall of Famer? Maybe, maybe not. Is he one of the greatest managers of all time? Maybe, maybe not. Do his tantrums compare to those of
Did he give the strangest bathroom interview of all time?
Without a single doubt.