Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Lou's wild ride with the Cubs

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Lou Piniella won't soon be forgotten on the North Side for a nearly four-year run of great highs, heartbreaking defeats, a few memorable outbursts and a personality every bit as big and brash as the franchise's famous fan base.

A remarkably consistent, genuine and honest manager and man -- sometimes too honest for his own best interests -- he's the first Cub manager since Frank Chance to reach the postseason in back-to-back seasons and first since Leo Durocher to manage three straight winning seasons.

Some of the highlights of the Piniella Cubs' era:

Oct. 17, 2006 - During press conference introducing him as Cubs' new manager, Piniella says: ``There's no curses - come on. It makes for good copy. We'll dispel these curses here in short order.'' Piniella also referred the Sox on the ``North Side'' and made reference to the ``Michigan Mile.''

March 5, 2007 - After a sloppy four-game start to the exhibition schedule, Piniella gathers team in the outfield before morning workouts to deliver a stern message about his displeasure and expectations. ``I've only been here four days, but I certainly don't like what I see,'' he says. ``There's a whole lot of work to do here.''

April 13, 2007 - After blowing a 5-0 lead and losing 6-5 to Cincinnati, Piniella snaps at a postgame question, saying during the ensuing rant: ``I can start to see some of the ways this team has lost ballgames.'' Of course, that was nothing.

June 2, 2007 - One day after Carlos Zambrano punches catcher Michael Barrett, Piniella deflects attention to himself by getting in an animated, hat-throwing, dirt-kicking argument with third-base ump Mark Wegner, drawing an ejection and four-game suspension. The Cubs were a season-worst nine games under .500 that day but went 63-46 the rest of the way to earn the team's first playoff berth since 2003.

Oct. 3, 2007 - After admitting before the playoff series against Arizona that Zambrano would pitch Game 4 on short rest, Piniella removed his ace from Game 1 with the score tied 1-1 after a dominating six innings and only 85 pitches. First-year setup man Carlos Marmol gave up two runs in the seventh, including a Mark Reynolds home run, as the Cubs lost 3-1 and got swept in the series to prevent a Game 4.

Sept. 20, 2008 - Cubs clinch second straight postseason berth - first time since 1908 - and go on to finish with league's best record.

Sept. 30, 2008 - On the eve of their playoff opener, the Cubs announce they've exercised Piniella's 2010 contract option.

Oct. 3, 2008 - After Cubs dig 0-2 hole to Dodgers in Game 2 playoff loss to Dodgers, Piniella talks to some veteran players about ``cajones.'' Two nights later in Los Angeles, Cubs eliminated.

June 26, 2009 - Defending catcher Geo Soto after a just-revealed positive test for marijuana during the World Baseball Classic four months earlier, Piniella says, ``I've smoked dope one time in my life, and it didn't do a damn thing for me, and I never tried it again.''

June 26, 2009 - Later the same day, Piniella kicks Milton Bradley out of a game after Bradley throws a fit in the dugout after making an out, Piniella so irate he called Bradley a ``piece of sh--.''

Aug. 21, 2009 - Piniella ends months of speculation when he tells Sun-Times he intends to return in 2010 and honor final year of his contract.

Aug. 27, 2009 - After the team's 14th loss in 20 games, Piniella fires back at growing criticism of his alleged loss of fire: ``I'm the same manager this year as I was last year, as I was the year before. Same manager. No different. When you don't win, somebody's got to stand up and be the scapegoat. And if you all want to say it's the manager, say it's the manager. It's fine with me. ... You want to blame me, take your shots. Doesn't bother me one bit.''

Sept. 29, 2009 - In response to a Sun-Times column criticizing him for appearing to be disinterested, Piniella says: ``I can take criticisms, and I know you have to have a thick skin, but at least be correct in your assumptions. I take exception to that. I've been in it since Day 1 here. I take pride in the team winning and playing well for our fan base, which is the best in baseball. If you were to see that empty parking lot at 1 in the morning when my coaches and I are meeting, you'd see we take a lot of price and care about this team.''

April 5, 2010 - Zambrano loses composure, failing to get out of the second inning, as the Cubs open the season with an ominous 16-5 loss in Atlanta - the same score against the same opponent that would send Piniella into retirement 4 ½ months later.

April 21, 2010 - With the Cubs' off to a bad start, in large part because of a shaky setup corps, Piniella makes the shocking move of reassigning $91.5-million Zambrano to the eighth-inning role.

June 11, 2010 - In rare public volley at specific critics, Piniella calls out Sox broadcaster Steve Stone for comments critical of Lou's handling of young players, in particular his decision to stick with an outfield rotation instead of playing rookie Tyler Colvin every day.

June 19, 2010 - after 12-0 loss to Angels: ``What am I supposed to do, yell and scream? That doesn't do anything. you've got to get it done on the field. That's all you can do. If you don't, you'll get embarrassed the way we did today.''

June 25, 2010 - In his fifth start back in the rotation, Zambrano has meltdown of his career in visitor's dugout at U.S. Cellular Field, at one point getting in face of Derrek Lee. Piniella sends him home, ahead of team suspension.

July 6, 2010 - Hinting strongly that this will be his final year managing, Piniella tells two beat writers he intends to finish out the season regardless of how bad it gets. ``I'm not a quitter,'' he says six times before elaborating. ``No, I'm not a quitter. In this business, you'd better be prepared to take the bad with the good. Nobody wants the bad, but it happens.''

July 13, 2010 - Longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a close friend and mentor of Piniella, dies suddenly in Tampa of a heart attack.

July 20, 2010 - Piniella announces retirement, effective the end of this season.

Sat., July 31 - Piniella leaves team in Denver, heads home to Tampa for three days for funeral of close uncle and to help ailing mother.

Aug. 9 - Piniella heads home to Tampa again, this time for four days, to tend to worsening mother and arrange extra care for her.

Aug. 22, 2010 - announces Sunday's game will be his last.

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1 Comment

I think Gordon Wittenmyer forgot two other things I would take to be a successful manager of the Cubs: the patience of Job and the power of God.

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on August 22, 2010 7:45 PM.

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