8/22 Lou is headed home
Family comes first, and Lou Piniella is headed home to take care of his mother. When Piniella announced on July 20 that he was retiring at the end of this season, he fully intended to finish the year with the Cubs. But his mother’s health prompted him to retire early. Sunday’s Cubs game against the Braves will be Piniella’s last as manager. He will take off the uniform for the last time to go home.
“I didn’t think my career would end this way,” Piniella said prior to the game. “My mom needs me home. She hasn’t gotten better since I’ve been here. In fact, she’s had a couple complications.
“Rather than continue to go home and come back, it’s not fair to the team and it’s not fair to the players,” he said. “The best thing is to step down and go home and take care of my mother.”
Piniella left the team Aug. 9-12 to be with his 90-year-old mother, Margaret, in Tampa, Fla., and set up in-home care. He calls her every morning, and when he called Sunday to tell her he was headed home, she cried.
“I’ve enjoyed it here,” Piniella said. “Four wonderful years and I’ve made a lot of friends. We’ve had some success here and this year has been a little bit of a struggle. Family is important, and comes first and my mom needs me home and that’s where I’m going.”
Piniella, who turns 67 on Aug. 28, compiled a 316-392 record with the club over three-plus seasons. He guided the team to the National League Central title in his first and second years in 2007-08, and the Cubs posted the best record in the NL in ’08 at 97-64.
Piniella met with the Cubs coaches and players prior to batting practice on Sunday to give them the news.
“It’s been a very tough day for him and very emotional,” GM Jim Hendry said. “It’s to the point now where he needs to be home with his family.”
After all the years playing, managing, broadcasting, Piniella is done.
“I haven’t had time to reflect on it,” he said of his career. “I’m going to try to enjoy today as much as possible. It’s been a long time and I’ve been blessed. God’s given me the health and ability to do this job and I’m appreciative. It’s been a long time.
“When I announced my retirement earlier in the season, I thought I’d finish the year and go from there,” he said. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. I’ll have plenty of time to reflect.”
Piniella was to exchange lineup cards with Atlanta manager Bobby Cox prior to Sunday’s game and then head to Tampa on Monday.
“This is a nice job but it’s a tough job,” Piniella said of the Cubs. “They’re going to win here. They’ve got a family-owned business now. The Ricketts family will do what they need to do to get this thing to where it can win. They’ll give it the care it deserves.
“When I took this job, I didn’t call anybody [for advice],” he said. “I came here and did the best I could for as long as I could.”
— Carrie Muskat