Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #96, Lou Piniella (Article 20)
If you grew up watching the Yankees in the 1970’s, you had to love Sweet Lou.
Today I’ll share some facts about Lou Piniella’s career that might not be known by most people. All of these facts and trivialities have been collected and compiled by me (thus making them little known or unknown to others – until now):
Lou Piniella was mentioned in both great Yankee biographical/seasonal diaries – Ball Four and The Bronx Zoo. Piniella, though, never appeared in a game as a Seatlle Pilot as he was traded to the Kansas City Royals on April 1, 1969.
Lou Piniella appeared on a baseball card in 1964 as a “Rookie Star” for the Washington Senators. He never played for the Senators.
Piniella didn’t appear on a baseball card again for four seasons – not until 1968 when he was again profiled as a “Rookie Star” only this time for the Cleveland Indians.
I would imagine that Lou Piniella is the only player to appear as a “Rookie Star” for two different teams and with as much time between baseball card appearances. Four years is a long time!
But wait! In the 1969 Topps set, Lou Piniella is listed as a “Rookie Star” for the Seattle Pilots – another team he never played for.
I believe Lou Piniella is the only player in baseball history to appear as a “Rookie Star” on a baseball card for three different franchises.
Lou Piniella played in 1,747 Major League games. He was pictured alongside three players on those “Rookie Star” cards. Those three players (Mike Brumley, Washington; Richie Scheinblum, Cleveland; and Marv Staehle, Seattle) together played a grand total of 871 games in the big leagues.
He never appeared on a baseball card with them, but Lou Piniella actually played four games with the Baltimore Orioles in 1964. He had one at bat and grounded out. His other three appearances were as a pinch runner.
In that one at bat Piniella has for the Orioles, he pinch hit for future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Robin Roberts.
Lou PIniella appeared in six games for the Cleveland Indians in 1968. He went 0-for-6. He did have a sacrifice fly.
Lou Piniella first reached the big leagues in 1964, but didn’t register his first Major League hit until five years later – 1969. On Opening Day 1969, now playing for the Royals, Piniella batted lead off and played center field. He was the very first player to come to bat as a Kansas City Royal. After waiting so many years, he didn’t waste any time either, hitting a double in his first at bat. Piniella was the first Royal to get an at bat, a hit, and a double. He then scored making him the first Royal to ever score a run. Lou Piniella went 4-for-5 that day with a walk. He was finally in the big leagues for good.
In the Royals’ fourth game of the year, Lou Piniella became the first Royals player to ever get hit by a pitch and reach base. (It’s true. Look it up!)
The Royals didn’t get their first home run until their fifth game of the season. The guy who hit that homer? Mike Fiore. (No, Piniella didn’t do everything!)
Piniella’s first homer came off Jim Nash (of the Oakland A’s) on April 20, 1969.
Lou Piniella lived up to his billing as a “Rookie Star.” He won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1969. (Those late 1970’s Yankees championship teams had three former Rookies of the Year on them – Piniella, Thurman Munson (1970), and Chris Chambliss.(1971).)
Lou Piniella and Rich Scheinblum appeared as “Rookie Stars” together in 1968, but didn’t make it as members of the Cleveland Indians together, yet they did play together as the starting left fielder (Piniella) and right fielder (Scheinblum) for the 1972 Kansas City Royals. Piniella hit .312 that year, Scheinblum hit .300. They were the only two Royals to bat .300 or better that year.
Lou Piniella wore #9 on the Royals, but when he came to the Yankees, Graig Nettles already had that number so he took #14. (A few year later, when Reggie Jackson came to the Yankees in 1977, he had worn #9 as a Kansas City/Oakland A’s player and as a Baltimore Orioles player. Reggie then took #44.)
Lou Piniella played eleven seasons as a Yankee. He played all of his games as a Yankee as an outfielder or DH save for two occasions when he played first base (once in 1974 (from the bottom of the 9th through the 13th inning) and in 1977 (when he played an entire game there).
Lou Piniella hit .300 or better in five seasons as a Yankee: 1974 (.305), 1977 (.330), 1978 (.314), 1982 (.307), and 1984 (.302).
In 1977, Lou Piniella hit his career high in homers with 12.
Lou Piniella’s lifetime batting average as a Yankee was .295.
Lou PIniella retired during the 1984 season (on June 16 ). His last home run was hit on May 18, 1984 off of Tommy John. Lou Piniella was 40-years-old. Tommy John was 41.
Piniella’s last big league hit was a single off Bob Ojeda of the Red Sox.
Lou Piniella managed the Yankees in 1986 and 1987 and then again at the end of the the 1988 season. He also served as a batting coach and General Manager for the Yankees.
As a manager, Lou Piniella’s record with the Yankees was 224-193 (.537). He managed the Reds, Mariners, Devil Rays, and Cubs, but it was only with the Mariners (.542) that he had a better overall winning percentage.
Piniella won the World Series as the manager of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds. (That, you probably knew.)