Lou Calls It A Day

 48 years is a long time in any line of work, but later tonight Chicago Cubs Manager Lou Piniella will call time on his storied career in Major League Baseball after reaching that mark.

Piniella played the professional game for 18 seasons before embarking on a lengthy career as manager, more than four decades in which he reached the World Series on five occasions, claiming three titles on the way. His playing and managing career included spells in the Bronx under the stewardship of Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away earlier in the summer (a man whose life story could certainly provide the script for a film.)

Alas, none of Piniella’s titles were won during his short four year tenure in charge of the Chicago Cubs, who will shortly complete their 102nd consecutive season without claiming the World Series crown. He did succeed in delivering back-to-back pennants for the Cubs in his first two years at the helm, a feat not achieved by the north Chicago outfit since their acclaimed three-in-a-row pennants from 1906-1908. But early and humiliating playoff defeats cruelly dashed the expectations of the perennially optimistic fans that grace the hallowed ground that is baseball’s greatest ballpark, Wrigley Field.  

Nobody makes movies like the Yanks, and the Americans alone appear capable of pulling off sport-themed movies.

Of the various sports which have provided the backdrop for fictional and non-fictional dramas, baseball appears to be the one best suited for the big screen.

The list of baseball-themed films in the last quarter century is quite impressive: Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, The Babe, Bull Durham, Major League, The Bad News Bears,  A League of Their Own and many more. Having said that, the one which stands out for me remains The Natural (1984) starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close, the theme song of which can still be heard regularly during the baseball season- most notably during the Home Run Derby during All Star weekend, for reasons obvious to those who have watched the film.

The movie caricature of the fiery-tempered, tobacco chewing/spitting manager seemed to fit Lou Piniella perfectly during his heyday, for he was known for his temper which often led to heated encounters in the diamond with equally forceful umpires. His clubroom brawl with star pitcher, Rob Dibble, as Manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1992 ultimately led to his sacking a month later.

His departure will mean the mantle of guiding the much maligned Cubs on their elusive search for glory will be passed on to another soul, hoping to end the Billy Goat’s Curse and secure a Triumph through Michigan Avenue, in the process bringing joy to Cubs fans across the world, including this one in rain swept south Antrim.