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#167 Senators Rookies (Mike Brumley/Lou Piniella)

08/22/2010

Lou Piniella retired today as a Major League manager after 3,548 games as a skipper, and 46 years after making his debut as a player in 1964. It’s only natural for today’s post to commemorate Looouuuuuuuuuuu’s rookie card from the 1964 set.

My example of the card is, quite literally, a little rough around the edges, but still has a nice surface. Stains on the back, though, so this is in the VG range.

Somewhat comically, Lou Piniella is featured on three different rookie combo cards in the 1960s with three different teams. And he never even played for two of the teams (the Senators and Seattle Pilots), and barely played for the third (the Indians, for whom he had 6 total plate appearances). After his appearance here in the 1964 set, he wasn’t featured in another Topps set until 1968, when Topps “re-booted” his rookie status and put him on another rookie stars card. But he barely played in 1968, so they put him on another one in 1969 (using the same photo):

This, of course, has led some people with a 1968 or ’69 Piniella to believe that they held his rookie card.

The ’64 card is likely the only photo out there of Lou wearing a Senators hat. He was picked up by Washington in 1962 from the Indians in the first-year player draft, and did well in A ball in 1963 as a 19-year-old, hitting .310 with 16 homers for Peninsula.

He missed most of the 1964 season, and the Senators shipped him to Baltimore as a player-to-be-named to complete a deal for the legendary Buster Narum (who went 14-27 with a 4.45 ERA for the Senators and was out of baseball by 1967 at age 26).

Piniella made his big-league debut on September 4, 1964 with the Orioles as a pinch-hitter. He appeared as a pinch-runner in three other games that year. He didn’t get another Major League plate appearance until September 8, 1968.

In the meantime, he’d been traded to the Indians for catcher Cam Carreon. Piniella played nearly three full seasons with my hometown Portland Beavers of the PCL before getting a call-up. After going 0-for-5 in limited duty with Cleveland, he was drafted by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft after the season.

But he never played for Seattle. A week before the season started in 1969, Piniella was traded to another expansion team — the Kansas City Royals. About 4 1/2 years after making his debut, Piniella hit leadoff in the first Royals game ever. On that day, he went 4-for-5 (his first 4 career hits) in a 4-3 win over the Twins.

Despite having played in 1964, Lou won the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year award and finally got a baseball card all to himself in 1970 (as a Topps All-Star Rookie). He played five full years in left field with the Royals, with his best season coming in 1972 when he hit .312/.356/.441 with 11 homers and a league-leading 33 doubles.

After the 1973 season, the Royals traded Piniella to the Yankees for 37-year-old reliever Lindy McDaniel, who was well past his prime.

It was in New York that Piniella became a household baseball name. He never put up particularly eye-popping numbers, but was an above-average player in terms of OPS+ for 9 of his 11 seasons with the Yankees. His best year in New York was 1977, when he hit .330/.365/.510 with a career-best 12 homers despite only collecting 369 PA. The Yankees won the World Series that year, and again in 1978 when Piniella batted .314 with a career-high 34 doubles and 4.0 WAR. Overall with the Yankees, Piniella made the postseason five times and also played in the World Series in 1976 and 1981.

Piniella’s retired as a player in 1984 at the age of 40. He immediately joined the Yankee coaching staff, and eventually became manager in 1986. He won 90 and 89 games, respectively, in his first two seasons as manager, but the team didn’t make the playoffs either year. Piniella was briefly promoted to GM of the Yankees, but returned as manager in the middle of the 1988 season with Billy Martin got fired for approximately the 194th time.

He then moved on to manage the Reds, Mariners, (Devil) Rays and Cubs. Despite winning only 91 during the regular season in 1990, his Reds swept the A’s in the World Series that season. He took the Mariners to their first-ever playoff appearance in 1995, beating the Yankees in the ALDS. In 2001, Seattle won 116 games but fizzled against New York in the ALCS. The three AL West titles he won with the Mariners are the only division titles in franchise history.

Piniella was frustrated with his three-year tenure in Tampa Bay, believing that there was no way the franchise could win without spending money on players. He was right to an extent, but the D-Rays’ extended misery allowed them to pile up high draft picks, which eventually led to the team reaching the World Series in 2008, three years after Piniella left.

Lou spent his last years with the Cubs, revitalizing a team that had once again fallen into a funk after the 2003 NLCS meltdown. The Cubs won the NL Central in 2007 and 2008, but couldn’t manage to win a single game in the playoffs either season. This year, the Cubs have fallen off the cliff, and Piniella decided he’d step aside after the season. But he only made it until today, as he chose to walk away now to spend time with his ailing mother.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lou in 2006 when I worked at Shea Stadium. He was broadcasting the game for FOX during his one-year absence from managing, and I spoke to him briefly on the elevator, before helping him locate the broadcast booth. He’s well-known for his temper, but Lou’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, even if only for 5 minutes.

The other player featured on this card is catcher Mike Brumley. Brumley was the Senators’ primary catcher in 1964, hitting .244/.309/.312 with 2 homers and 35 RBI in 136 games. He was reduced to a part-timer in 1965, when he produced even worse offensive numbers. In 1966, he appeared in only nine games and never played in the big leagues again. According to Wikipedia, Brumley became a minister in Florida after retirement, and his church was attended by players living and training in the area. Brumley’s son (also named Mike) was a utility man for six different teams from 1987-1995, and now serves as the third base coach for the Mariners. Brumley Sr. is currently 72 years old.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/23/2010 7:19 pm

    Holy cow! Does Piniella look like a mannequin in those photos or what?!? Kinda creepy… like Showroom Dummies

  2. 08/23/2010 8:38 pm

    Back then, I thought Piniella had the record for most rookie cards, but someone recently pointed out on these blogs that Indians’/Padres’ 1st baseman Bill Davis had 4 or 5 rookie cards.

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