From 1969 to 1973 Lou Piniella played for the Kansas City Royals, the very years that I learned to love baseball. Either on the front porch, sitting with my great grandmother in her big red chair, or on the ottoman at my grandfather's feet, I spent hours listening to games on the old transistor radio. So long ago did this love begin that I remember falling, and suffering scraped knees, in the gravel of the parking lot at the old Municipal Stadium, torn down years ago after the Royals moved to their current home, Kaufman Stadium. Lou played almost his entire tenure at Municipal Stadium, where, I suspect, he occasionally rewarded himself for a game well played with a brown paper package of burnt ends from Arthur Bryant's, only blocks away.
Lou was my very favorite baseball player, the one whose name I always listened for crackling out of the old radio. In Denny Matthews' so familiar baseball voice, "Piniella with a line drive to second" sent me bouncing, arms outstretched, straight into my grandfather's lap. Clearly the choice of Piniella, rhymes with vanilla, was not a random pick; when Lou defected to the rival Yankees in 1973 I chose Cookie Rojas as my new favorite Royal. Baseball, as influenced by baking, made perfect sense to a six year old.
Four years ago when the Cubs chose Lou as their new manager I was elated. Now in Chicago, Piniella Vanilla and I would be reunited. Two good years, two dismal years, but I loved watching him storm onto the field, red faced and furious, sometimes appearing confused post game, it was good to be back together again. Baseball is not a business to me, it's history and people and sport. And it's this attitude, as I understand, that will keep the Cubs from ringing and offering me Lou's job. Which is just fine, we've had a good run, Lou and I, and I wish him well. Thanks for the wonderful memories, of both then and now, Mr. Piniella.
Maybe Cookie Rojas is available?