Sweet Lou

Update: Today (July 20) Sweet Lou announced he would retire at the end of the season. Click here

Sweet Lou as a Mariner, courtesy AP/ESPN.com

Lou with the Cubbies, photo courtesy Sports Illustrated

for an interview with Jeff Nelson, who pitched for Lou here in Seattle before going to the reviled NY Yankees.

Here’s the original post from June when the Cubs came to Seattle:

The Chicago Cubs are in town, first of three games tonight, finishing up this round of interleague play.  It’s 2-0 Mariners going into the ninth, if they hang on they’ll win their fifth in a row, their third shutout in the last four games, showing signs of life that might even inspire the sun to return to Seattle.

But the best part of having the Cubs here is having Lou Piniella back in town. Lou managed the M’s back in their glory days in the 90’s, taking them to the playoffs for the first time in 1995, that famous season which gave Junior the MVP and “saved baseball in Seattle.” Lou might be one of the most universally beloved sports figures in the history of this city. I’ll tell you that watching him over those years taught me three of the most important baseball lessons I’ve ever learned.

Lou had two nicknames while he managed here: Sweet Lou, most of the time, and Mount Piniella. Lou has himself a temper, and especially during a couple of stretches when he was also trying to lose weight and quit smoking, we saw quite a lot of it. “Mount Piniella’s about to blow,” we’d say, and gather close to watch. Because Lou had style as well as a temper. More on that in a bit.

The first baseball lesson I learned from watching Lou is what to say to a pitcher when he’s struggling. Game after game, in the postgame interviews, the pitchers would say the same thing. “What did Lou say to you out there on the mound in the sixth/eighth/ninth? It seemed to settle you right down,” the reporter would ask.

The answer was always the same. “Just throw strikes, son. Let’s get this guy.”

The second baseball lesson Lou taught me was about fudge. See, I’m pretty good at reading lips. And when Lou would come out to argue a call, well, watching him taught me that it is highly offensive to suggest to an umpire that he give his mother fudge, er. You can get tossed pretty quickly that way.

And the third lesson watching Lou brought home, so to speak, is that the bases they use in major league ball are pretty well anchored to the ground. You can break your foot trying to kick one across the diamond, or hurt your back trying to yank one out of the ground. On the other hand, your baseball cap makes an excellent alternative. If the umpire made a truly bad call, and you have made no headway in your attempt to point this out to him, and you’ve tried suggesting he purchase his mother some fudge, and in return have been thrown out of the game, yank off your ball cap and kick it across the field. Keep kicking and suggesting that the entire umpire crew go buy fudge for themselves, until you really get your money’s worth. That cap can make it all the way to the opponent’s dugout, or, if you have quite a head of steam, all the way to the dugout roof.

Those are baseball lessons courtesy of Sweet Lou Piniella.

One ninety-six mile an hour fastball, and a two on, two out top ninth becomes game over. Five game win streak. Sweet indeed.

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