Come December, Tampa resident Lou Piniella has a good shot at being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
This past week the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY announced its Contemporary Baseball Era Committee candidates. Four managers, two executives, and two umpires make up the ballot. The Committee will meet on December 3 at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
The 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed electorates charged with the review of the Contemporary Baseball Era ballot will be announced after the conclusion of the World Series.
Piniella is one of four managers whose names will be voted on by Committee members. Making the shortlist is a long time coming for the product of Tampa’s Jesuit High School. After 18 seasons playing in the major leagues, followed by 23 seasons managing five different clubs, Piniella’s resume as a bench boss culminated with a 1,835-1,713 win-loss record.
December’s vote for non-players by the Committee is Piniella’s third time around. He came within one vote of election to baseball’s shrine in Cooperstown in 2018.
Election to the Hall of Fame requires garnering 75% of the vote, or 12 of 16 Committee members giving the candidates a thumbs up.
Skippering the Seattle Mariners for a decade saw Piniella lead his clubs to three American League Western Division titles. Leading the Chicago Cubs for four seasons, his last in uniform, Piniella brought home two National League Central titles to the “Windy City.”
Piniella’s finest hour during his 23 seasons filling out MLB lineup cards came during the 1990 season. His first season of three at the helm of the Cincinnati Reds, Piniella brought home a World Series championship to “The Queen City”, a first since 1976. The Reds defeated the Oakland Athletics in a four-game sweep.
One former teammate of Pinella’s for six seasons (1977-1982) with the New York Yankees was Bradenton resident Bucky Dent
During their time together playing at Yankee Stadium, the organization won two American League pennants (1976 & 1981), and two World Series championships (1977 & 1978).
Dent and Piniella played the game together, and when as an MLB coach with St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Texas, the former Yankees’ shortstop (and 1978 World Series MVP) crossed paths with the man who would one day be on the cusp of becoming a hall of famer.
“I didn’t know that he wanted to get into managing,” explained Dent of his former teammate earlier this week during a phone conversation. “Lou never really said anything about it when we were playing.”
In looking back at his managerial success, Dent admits that his friend of 50-plus years did a “hell of a job.”
“ (Piniella) won a World Championship with Cincinnati. He had great teams in Seattle. Then Lou came back to Tampa, and the Cubs. A lot of his winning had to do with him being a fiery guy, and highly competitive.”
Dent, who firmly believes that his former boss in New York George Steinbrenner should have a plaque in Cooperstown, remembers seeing Piniella last earlier this year at a function in New Jersey.
Phone calls have been exchanged and promises to set up a fishing trip remain on the table between the former Yankees.
“Lou is a fun guy to talk with, and he has great stories to tell,” Dent offers.
Dent remembers the best of times of his career in New York and unequivocally tags Piniella as a big part of adding to the Yankees winning tradition.
“(Piniella) was a tremendous clutch hitter, and I feel an underrated outfielder. Lou wasn’t very fast, but he made his catches.”
Along with Piniella on the Baseball Hall of Fame Contemporary Era ballot, the other three former MLB managers are Davey Johnson, Clarence Gaston, and Jim Leyland.
The results of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee vote will be announced live on MLB Network’s “MLB Tonight" at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 3.
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