Lou Piniella retires after Sunday game
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His family, from his relatives to his teammates and players, always has come first. And that's why the leader of the Chicago Cubs decided to step down after Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves -- he wants to spend more time with his ailing mother.
"My mom needs me home and that's where I'm going," Piniella said before one last game in the dugout.
Chicago quickly named third base coach Mike Quade manager for the remaining 38 games of the season, starting Monday at Washington. The rest of the coaching staff would stay for now, the team said several hours before the game.
In selecting Quade, the team didn't choose bench coach Alan Trammell, who was 1-4 as an interim manager during Piniella's absence earlier this season. General manager Jim Hendry said in a news conference on Sunday that Trammell would not be considered as a successor to Piniella.
The Cubs couldn't send Piniella out a winner, playing some sloppy baseball and losing to the Braves 16-5 to fall 23 games under .500.
After Sam Fuld grounded into a game-ending double play, Piniella took off his cap and shook it in the direction of the Atlanta dugout, apparently to say goodbye to fellow retiring manager Bobby Cox. Many in the crowd of 37,518 had already left Wrigley Field.
"It's a good day to remember and also it's a good day to forget," Piniella said following his final loss.
"I cried a little bit after the game. You get emotional. I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be," the Chicago Cubs manager said Sunday, his eyes tearing up again and his voice cracking.
"This will be the last time I put on my uniform," he said.
Piniella said last month he planned to retire at the end of the season and reiterated his plans just Saturday. But he missed four games in August to be with his mom in Florida and decided this weekend his divided attention wasn't helping anyone.
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"She hasn't gotten any better since I've been here," said Piniella, who turns 67 on Saturday. "She's had a couple other complications, and rather than continue to go home, come back, it's not fair to the team, it's not fair to the players. So the best thing is just to step down and go home and take care of my mother."
The surprising announcement -- made in a team handout Sunday morning after Piniella had repeatedly insisted he would finish the season -- led to a memorable scene when Piniella brought the lineup card to home plate and greeted Cox.
And Cox empathized with his counterpart.
"It's in your blood that long, but Lou's mom is in ill health," Cox said before the game. "It's a sad day for me because I kept on thinking that Lou would be back, not here but somewhere else."
Piniella and Cox shook hands after they reached the plate, hugged each other and exchanged back slaps as Piniella's No. 41 was posted on the center-field scoreboard.
Cox was announced to the crowd and took his cap off and waved it to the fans.
Then the public address announcer ran down Piniella's achievements as he stood at the plate, and scattered cheers of "Louuu" could be heard throughout the crowd.
After Piniella and Cox posed for a picture with the umpires, the managers hugged each other again. Piniella then headed to the dugout and, as the cheers got louder, took off his cap, waved it to the crowd and began to clap for the fans.
When Piniella made the first of three trips to the mound in the seventh inning to change pitchers, fans behind the dugout gave him a standing ovation as he came off the field and he acknowledged them with a little wave of his hand.
Piniella met with his team to let them know he was leaving and it was very emotional, despite the Cubs' terribly disappointing season -- two years after they had the best record in the NL.
"I wish we would've played better for him," reliever Sean Marshall said.
"You hate to see stuff like that. You hate to see a grown man kind of tear up like that, it just shows his heart for winning and his drive for baseball and his family."
What they're saying about Lou Piniella
"He was fiery. But the fact that they keep showing the clips of him going off on umpires, that's only a small part of Lou Piniella's career. I've come to like Lou a lot. I've played against him, I've seen him manage, and what stands out most is that he doesn't care what you say or do -- he's going to run his club the way he wants to run it."
-- Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker
"Lou's been so good for this game. I guess you have to say that sometimes enough is enough, especially when in spring training you expect so much from the club. He's a Hall of Famer and I hope he'll enjoy his life. Baseball needs people like Lou Piniella."
-- Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen
"He was the same as a manager that he was as a hitter. I mean, he went berserk as a hitter -- and I say that with love and respect. It meant a lot to him, and the game means a lot to him. So I think a lot of the antics -- which don't go away unfortunately thanks to our friends on TV & I think it distracts you from what basically he's all about. And that's being a winner. He's had success pretty much everywhere he's gone."
-- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre
"He was a fantastic manager and a very close friend. It's tough when anybody has to leave the game, maybe because of his mother's illness. He's a very good teacher, a very good manager of people. He's more worried about what's going on off the field then what's on the field with you. From a personal standpoint, he helped me with a lot of personal issues so that I can go out and be the best professional baseball player that I can be."
-- Former Cincinnati Reds reliever Rob Dibble
"He's a terrific winner and they're strugging. I'm sure he's suffering. He's had a great career."
-- St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa
"Most of our time together was a little more fire than ice. A lot of my times that I remember is just a lot of heated conversations in the heat of the battle, but I think in the long run, I turned out to be a better ballplayer for it."
-- Houston Astros infielder Geoff Blum, who played for Piniella in 2004 with Tampa Bay
"He was just a winner. Every day he came to the park and expected the guys to win. He instilled a winning attitude with the Mariners and helped turn around that franchise. His record speaks for itself."
-- Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, who spent 10 years in the Mariners organization and worked with Piniella
Piniella finished with an overall record was 1,835-1,713. He trailed only Tony La Russa, Cox and Joe Torre in victories among active managers.
Piniella's record with the Cubs was 316-293. Under the mellowed skipper, Chicago won consecutive NL Central titles in 2007-08, but missed the playoffs last year and slipped back even further this season with a new owner, Tom Ricketts, in charge.
"I've enjoyed it here," Piniella said. "In four wonderful years I've made a lot of friends and had some success here, this year has been a little bit of a struggle. But, look. Family is important, it comes first."
In 18 years in the majors as a player -- he had a .291 career batting average -- and another 23 as a manager, Piniella made five trips to the World Series and has three championship rings. He began his professional playing career in 1962.
A right-handed outfielder, he was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1969 after batting .282 with 11 homers and 68 RBIs with the Royals. He was traded to the Yankees in 1973 and ended his playing career with New York in 1984.
"It's a very tough day for him, very emotional," Hendry said of the man he hired four years ago to replace Dusty Baker. "There has been some times the last couple of months where he knew his family was possibly going to need him. He certainly didn't want to go out before the end of the year, but it's just at the point now where he need to be home with his mother and his family."
Quade, 53, a Chicago-area native who played in the Pirates organization, has coached in the Cubs' organization for eight years. He was the manager of Triple-A affiliate Iowa from 2003-06 before joining the Cubs. Quade has also served as a minor league manager in the Nationals, Phillies, and Athletics organizations.
Hendry said he decided over the past few weeks that Trammell would not be considered for the job on a full-time basis. He said he discussed that with Trammell on Sunday, and that he understood.
"He's happy for Mike, and he wants to stay and help Mike," Hendry said of Trammell. "Since I had already made a decision that Alan wasn't going to manage next year, I thought that we would be better served by him not being the manager for the rest of the season."
Previously, Hendry had said Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, now managing the club's Triple-A affiliate in Des Moines, would be a candidate for the job. He said last month Piniella's replacement wouldn't be hired before the end of the season, but he had hoped to have a manager in place by organization meetings in late October or early November.
Sandberg, who spent several seasons as a spring training instructor with the Cubs after retiring in 1997, has said he's interested.
"I need to focus on what I'm doing here in Des Moines with these players and what my job is right now," he said. "If the time came, if I was considered for that job in Chicago, I think that'd be a terrific thing just to be considered. The whole goal of any minor leaguer is to get to the major leagues, and I think that includes coaches and managers like myself."
Piniella's South Side counterpart, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, said the news was "very shocking."
"I think this man is a very, very, very [good] baseball man. When you're going to talk about baseball, Lou's name is out there. But I don't blame him," Guillen said. "Sometimes enough is enough, especially when you expect a lot from the ballclub from the beginning of spring training and all of the sudden everything is wrong. It's not easy."
Piniella began managing in 1986 with the Yankees and lasted three years, including a stint as general manager. He managed the Reds from 1990-92, leading them to a World Series championship in his first season. He also got national attention during his time there for a clubhouse wrestling match with reliever Rob Dibble, who downplayed the incident and said "we've been family ever since."
After Cincinnati, Piniella had a long run in Seattle, where his teams won at least 90 games four times and 116 in 2001. The three-time manager of the year also spent three seasons in Tampa Bay's dugout, but he questioned his hometown team's commitment to winning at the time before the team bought out the final year of his four-year contract.
Piniella joined the Cubs after doing some TV work, looking for a final challenge and hoping -- like so many before him -- that he would be the manager to bring the Cubs a long-awaited championship. The Cubs' last World Series appearance came in 1945, their last World Series winner in 1908. It didn't happen, despite the promising first two seasons.
What Chicago fans saw for the most part was a more reserved Piniella, although he did have one dirt-kicking meltdown with umpire Mark Wegner early in his first season and soon thereafter the Cubs took off and eventually overtook the Milwaukee Brewers to win the NL Central in 2007.
The Cubs won 97 games under Piniella in 2008, but were swept out of the playoffs for the second straight year and it's been mostly downhill since that successful run.
"It's a tough job. But, look. I mean. They're going to win here. They've got a family owned business now," Piniella said.
"The Ricketts family is going to do what they need to do to get this thing to where it can win. They're going to give it the care that it deserves. When I took this job I didn't call anybody. I came here and did the best I could for as long as I've been here. That's all you can do," he added.
Piniella said he would look back later.
"I'll have plenty of time to reflect, I will," he said.
"I've enjoyed it. It's a wonderful place to work and wonderful people to work with and for. To end a career in a place like Wrigley in a city like Chicago with these wonderful fans, I couldn't be more appreciative to the Cub organization."
Information from The Associated Press and ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine was used in this report.
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