Lou Piniella retired as manager of the Chicago Cubs six weeks early to spend more time with his ailing mother, saying he “cried a bit” after putting on the uniform for the last time.
Piniella, a three-time Manager of the Year, ended a four-year run with the Cubs in yesterday’s 16-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. He’ll be replaced by third base coach Mike Quade for the final 37 games of Major League Baseball’s regular season.
Piniella, 66, said July 20 he’d retire after Chicago’s final game on Oct. 3. Since then, he’s missed four games to be in Florida with his 90-year-old mother.
“I’m concerned about my mom,” Piniella said in comments on the Cubs’ website. “Family is important, it comes first. My mom needs me home and that’s where I’m going.”
Piniella spent 23 seasons as a major league manager and ranks 14th on the all-time wins list, with a 1,835-1,713 record. He had a 316-293 record with the Cubs and in 2007-08 became the first manager in 100 years to lead the franchise to consecutive playoff appearances.
“I appreciate my four years here with the Cubs’ organization,” Piniella said during a tearful post-game news conference. “The city is special. The people are special.”
Piniella trailed only Tony La Russa of the St. Louis Cardinals, Bobby Cox of the Braves and Joe Torre of the Los Angeles Dodgers in victories among active managers.
Piniella and Cox
Cox said in September that he’ll retire at the end of this season and shared a hug with Piniella when they exchanged lineup cards at home plate yesterday. Piniella then tipped his cap to acknowledge cheers from the crowd of 37,518.
“I hate to see Lou leave,” Cox said. “He’s just been great for the game.”
The Cubs won the National League Central Division title during Piniella’s first two seasons in Chicago, only to go 0-6 in the postseason. Chicago missed the playoffs last year and is currently in fifth place in the six-team NL Central with a 51-74 record. Piniella had left the Cubs from Aug. 9-12 to set up in-home care for his mother, Margaret, in Tampa, Florida.
Piniella said his mother has had several complications since his return to Chicago and that “it’s not fair” to the team or players for him to continue to go home and come back.
“We understand he needs to be with his family and respect his decision to retire at this time,” Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry said.
In 1984, Piniella retired as an outfielder for the New York Yankees after 11 seasons. He managed the Yankees from 1986 to 1988, won a World Series with the Cincinnati Reds in 1990 and also had managerial stints with the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The 53-year-old Quade is in his eighth season with the Cubs organization and will be considered to replace Piniella next season. Since 2007, he has been third-base and outfield coach. Before that, he spent four seasons as manager of the Chicago’s Triple-A minor-league affiliate in Iowa.
Quade has 17 years experience as a manager in the minor leagues, compiling a career 1,213-1,165 record. He was also first-base coach for the Oakland Athletics from 2000 to 2002.