SWEET LOU by Lou & Maury Allen Piniella


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An anecdote-filled reprise of his playing career and a manifesto of sorts about how the newest Yankee manager will handle the greatest challenge in his professional sporting life--those thunderbolts from the front office when George Steinbrenner's team drops a few games. Veteran sports-ghoster Allen collaborates and adds not a few items from his clip file. Piniella was a much-sought-after high-school phenom from Tampa, FL, whose basketball talents won him a college scholarship. His fabled hot temper (inherited from his Spanish father, it seems, who regularly tore up sandlot games) and (then) immature responses to being benched and otherwise admonished by his coaches ended that college excursion and, in 1962, he signed to play professional baseball in the Washington Senators' organization. The story gets familar here, almost like the cast of a grade-B war movie: There are grizzled old-timers, down-checked youths who don't live up to potential, jokers, wags, and tough guys, like Baltimore Oriole manager-to-be Earl Weaver, serving his time in a feudal outpost where Piniella stopped over--they immediately and ever since, Piniella says, crossed swords. Serving his time in the hinterlands, Piniella gets his chance in the ""Bigs,"" fluffs it, gets discouraged, gets traded, gets another try and becomes Rookie of the Year for Kansas City in 1969. In 1973, he was traded to the Yankees. For his decade in the Bronx, he was a clutch hitter, able outfielder, team leader and fan favorite (it's ""Looou, not boo""). Don't expect the outrageousness of ex-Yankee Sparky Lyle's The Bronx Zoo or the unrelieved sardonic recollections of ex-Yankee Craig Nettles' Balls here, however; they were safely away from Steinbrenner's fiefdom before they started popping off in print. Lou still has a job to do, although precious few illusions seem to remain. To Steinbrenner, winning is the only business a ball club has in the business of baseball: managers are held accountable; managers are fired. Piniella repeats it like a litany. (He obviously learned much observing the multiple incarnations of Billy Martin as Yankee leader and seems determined, as springtime optimism reigns, to apply them diligently.) Leavened by some wit (after he flied out on his first All-Star Game pitch, his wife told him that he should have taken a few more pitches to prolong his TV exposure), pleasant recollections of bygone playing days and teammates--with whom he shared a few ""pops"" of Jack Daniels--this remains a routine box-score as first-person baseball memoirs go. No offense given, none taken.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1986
Publisher: Putnam