I’m a Mets fan through and through but I’ll tell you what, there’s just something about the Yankees that I love. I guess I have always appreciated the deep rooted history dating back to 1901 when they actually played as the Baltimore Orioles (not the same Baltimore Orioles as today), the simplicity of the classic pinstripe uniforms and the long list of baseball legends that has worn them. The 27 world championships doesn’t hurt either!
If you haven’t read Damned Yankees by Bill Madden and Moss Klein, I highly recommend it. A self-described no-holds-barred account of life with “Boss” Steinbrenner, the book tells what it’s like — for better or for worse, to be under the Yankees circus-tent working for “the Boss.” Featuring a collection of Yankee tales spanning between 1973 – 1989, the book is absolutely hilarious and features the usual cast of Yankee characters from that time frame – Munson, Gossage, Jackson, Guidry, Berra, Mattingly, Nettles, and of course Billy Martin.
To tie into my 1978 Topps Lou Piniella TTM signature above, let’s talk about Sweet Lou. First off, I thought I had a signature on something featuring him in his Yankees pinstripes. It would seem that all I have is the Royals card. Maybe I’ll write to him and inquire on getting some Yankees items signed.
Okay, so back to the book. Stories about Lou Piniella are scattered throughout. There was the time The Boss fined Lou for showing up to the ’82 spring training overweight; also known as the “Great Piniella Weight War.” The grand total taken from Piniella’s wallet was $8,000. $7,000 for being 7 pounds over the 200 and another $1,000 for tossing a baseball to some kids in the bleachers after a game. What made this story so funny was the fact that Steinbrenner let Lou know about the fine through the media. This obviously did not sit well with Lou who had more than a few choice words for the writers to quickly get into their stories.
Then there was the 1988 season which saw Lou as the general manager of the Yankees. While on the phone with the general manager of the Houston Astros (discussing a possible Winfield trade), Lou was interrupted by Steinbrenner who had just burst into his office. Steinbrenner, completely ignoring the fact that Lou was on the phone (working), frantically gestured for Lou to hang up and to come with him. Lou, thinking that Steinbrenner had news of a better trade offer, quickly got off the phone with the Astro’s general manager. “Come with me,” he ordered Piniella. They left the office, hurried through the front gates and began walking around the outside of the stadium. As the Yankees were gearing up to play an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves, the ballpark was bustling with fans.
“Don’t let anyone recognize us,” Steinbrenner told Piniella as he shoved him behind a large bush. How could people NOT recognize the general manager and the owner of the Yankees slinking around the ballpark with hundreds of baseball fans milling around the ballpark!
“Stay down! Don’t let anyone see you!” Steinbrenner loudly whispered.
“What the hell are we doing here George?” Piniella asked.
“I’m sick and tired of these free passes being given out!” Steinbrenner responded. “There are too many people getting free passes and I’m sick of it. You’re going to put a stop to it right now.” he barked.
“I want you to hide here and count how many people come and get free passes and then find out who they are.” the Boss told him.
Piniella couldn’t believe it. Here he was the general manager of the New York Yankees. A business executive who was supposed to be working out winning trades and at the very least watching his own team on the field. Rather, instead the Boss wanted him to hide in some bushes like a child.
Needless to say, the complimentary pass-crisis took priority over the Winfield trade (that the Boss had been demanding for months by the way) and it’s no wonder that the Winfield trade never happened.
Not included in the book is a story about Piniella’s first introduction to Steinbrenner after he was brought over from the Kansas City Royals. It’s worth reading and sportscaster Tim Lewis over at All Around Tim does a fine job sharing it. I’ll let you head over to his blog to enjoy it.