Last week Jon Heyman reported that people with the Cubs anticipated that Lou Piniella was going to retire at the end of the season. Today Bill Madden reports it as not suspicion, but fact, and given that Madden and Piniella are said to be quite close, it presumably came straight from Piniella’s mouth (UPDATE: The Cubs have now issued a press release, making it official).
It’s been kind of sad to watch Piniella in Chicago these past two years, burdened with some truly wacko players and a roster laden with overpaid underachievers. I don’t know how long the managing fire would have continued to burn in his belly in more ideal circumstances, but I bet he would still be managing in 2011 if it hadn’t been for the headache after headache he’s had to endure with the Cubs.
We’ll have a lot of time for remembrances of Piniella’s career as the season goes on, as he talks about it some and when the curtain finally closes in October. But for now the craziest thing about all of this to me is that he has managed way longer than he ever played. Just seems odd somehow. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, I still think of him as more of a player than a manager.
As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.
The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.
Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.
Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.
The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.
Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.
Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.
Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.