Players, coaches remember Lou Piniella’s insatiable desire to win
Lou Piniella warned the guests at a luncheon in his honor Friday afternoon at Safeco Field that he could get emotional, and that he did while thanking those who supported him during his 10 years with the Mariners.
He thanked ownership, his two general managers, the broadcasters, training staff, coaches and his players.
“Junior, Randy and Ichiro, all will be in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “Edgar should be there, too. You can’t win without talent and I had a lot of it here. They all contributed and played a big part of my success here.”
He then offered a heartfelt thank you to those who showed up every night at the Kingdome and Safeco Field.
“The most wonderful, supportive fans in all of baseball. Thank you for the love you bestowed on our team,” he said. “You created an atmosphere that made it fun to play here and tough for the opponents to visit.”
Eight-hundred and forty wins for Piniella in a Mariners uniform and only one regret.
“My only regret is we never got to the World Series,” he said. “It was never for a lack of resolve.”
It was that resolve which separated Piniella from most of his peers, according to long-time friend and hitting coach Lee Elia.
“He had an insatiable desire to win,” Elia told the crowd. “His whole personality was about winning no matter what it was. And the presence he brought to a ballclub … Something about Lou, he could be in the parking lot in the pouring rain and somehow we coaches in the clubhouse would know he was here. Not many people could do that.”
“When Lou was in the clubhouse you sat up straighter,” said former Mariners catcher Dan Wilson, who went on to note that it was perhaps Piniella’s middle name that best set his path.
“Louis Victor Piniella,” Wilson said. “Victories, he has the 14th most of all time for managers. He loved to win and it pulled out his emotion, his passion. Equally, he hated to lose. In fact, we were in a losing streak, taking a bus back to the hotel, and there was a little-league team practicing and he said, ‘Hey Bussie, pull this thing over and see if we can beat these guys!’
“I’ve seen Lou kick a hat all the way back from second base, I’ve seen Lou lay down and imitate the way a guy slid out of the baseline arguing with an umpire. Lou has done some crazy stuff but it was because he had such a desire to win, and is there a better trait for a manager than to have a desire like that?”
Piniella could be demanding but it was his passion for winning and compassion for his players that turned his Mariners into family, according to Wilson. Long-time third-base coach Sam Perlozzo concurred.
“My wish is that everyone could go to the World Series and play for Lou Piniella for a year,” he said.