OBSERVATIONS: Lou Piniella. . .One Huge Class Act

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, hoping I can stay alerrt and awake during tonight’s UD-UNLV game that starts at 9 p.m. After all, I am 83.

—ONE CLASSY GUY: Lou Piniella is 80 and enduring some health issues — prostate cancer and some mini-strokes and won’t be eligible for another Hall of Fame vote until December, 2026.

It remains inconceivable that five members of the 16-man committee did not vote for him this year, meaning he fell one vote short.

Piniella, remaining true to his colors, was more gracious in defeat than he ever was on a baseball field. He issued this classy statement to the Tampa Bay Times and the New York Daily News:

“Although I did not get inducted this year, I am very proud of my 40-plus years of MLB service and have accomplished more than I could ever have dreamed. For those who did not know, I have battled cancer for the past few years and recently received positive news.

“Although I did not make the Hall of Fame, I am so grateful to God for everything He has blessed me with, and I will be celebrating with my wife and friends. Thank you again for considering me and God bless.”

Class, class, class.

As former teammate Willie Randolph told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, “I’ve been in the trenches with him and I’ve gone against him and there’s nobody more competitive and nobody who’s done more to impact the game than Lou Piniella.”

I was fortunate to cover the Cincinnati Reds during Piniella’s managerial days and never had so much fun.

There was the clubhouse skirmish he had with relief pitcher Rob Dibble, a fight that I ignited. Dibble didn’t pitch one night in a situation that called for him. Piniella said Dibble told him before the game he had a little twinge in his elbow. So I asked Dibble, “What’s wrong. Your manager said you have a twinge in your elbow.”

Said Dibble, “Well, the manager is a liar.” I went to Lou and said, “Dibble just called you a liar.” Piniella leaped to his feet, ran from his office to the clubhouse, jumped on Dibble and the fight was on.”

And I had a great story.

There was the night Piniella disagree with a call at first base by umpire Dutch Rennert. Piniella yanked first base from its moorings and hurled it into right field.

About a month later, the bag-tossing came up in conversation and Lou said, with a wry grin, “Yeah, my wife (Anita) wouldn’t speak to me for a week after I did that. And if I had known that, I would have done it sooner.”

Sweet Lou. . .one of a kind, that very best kind.

—MOVIN’ ON: Entered my name in the transfer portal, hoping the New York Times would call, but would be fortunate if the Pawtucket Tiimes or the Roanoke Times calls.

Unbelievably, 1,127 college football players entered their names in the transfer portal, eclipsing last year’s record 780. That’s 7% of all Division I players.

There are 85 quarterbacks and 149 wide receivers with their palms out, waiting for NIL money to magically appear.

South Carolina lost the most transfers, 15, while the University of Cincinnati lost 13. The only two Power Five schools to lose nobody was Northwestern and Michigan.

—QUOTE: From Nebraska coach Matt Ruhle on the NIL, particularly quarterbacks: “Make no mistake that a good quarterback in the portal costs a million to $2 million right now. Let’s make sure we all understand what’s happening. There are some teams that have $6 million or $7 million players playing for them.” (“Momma don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Let them be quarterbacks, wide receivers or linebackers.”)

—MORE SCENERY CHANGERS: What do quarterbacks Michael Penix Jr., Jayden Daniel and Bo Nix all have in common, other than all three are Heisman Trophy finalists?

All three are transfers. And if one of them wins the Heisman, it will be the fifth time in seven years the award was won by a transfer quarterback.

Other notable quarterbacks who wore more than one college uniform and played in the NFL are Joe Burrow, Will Levis, Baker Mayfield, Gardner Minshew and Kyle Murray.

Is it any wonder why QBs are mercenaries with shoulder pads?

—DUBIOUS DISTINCTION: Ron Wright had his few minutes of fame and probably wishes he hadn’t.

Wright spent 11 years in the minor leagues and played in one major league game for the Seattlle Mariners. In that game, he batted three times and made six outs.

He struck out, he hit into a double play and he hit into a triple play.

But it ended well. He retired, obtained a pharmacy degree from Idaho State and became a pharmacist. There is no truth that he always doubles and triples the contents of prescriptions.

—QUOTE: From Steven Wright, who is no relation to Ron Wright: “I’m writing a book. I have the page numbers done.” (I haven’t even gotten that far with my next book.)

—ASTOUNDING STAFF: Former Ohio State quarterback Stanley Jackson, a regular noon speaker at the Dayton Agonis Club, is the head football coach at Westerville North High School.

What a thrill it must be for the players to be coached by a former OSU player. But that’s not all.

Jackson’s staff is fillled with former OSU players: Former OSU running back Beanie Wells coaches the running backs, Former OSU wide receiver Reggie Germany coaches the receivers and former OSU players Ashanti Webb, Winfield Garrett, Paris Long, James Martin and Eric Smith are position coaches.

“I knew I could put together a collection of coaches that, number one, really understands the game, loves it, wanted to coach and have a high pedigree because they played at a major Division I college, primarily Ohio State,” said Jackson.

And how did they do? Westerville North was 3-8 in 2022. Jackson and his illustrious staff took over this season and went 9-3.

Jackson, by the way, has two sons who will be prime time collegiate players. . .probably at Ohio State.

—THE BROWNING RIFLE: As a devout Cleveland Browns fan, so devoted I wear brown underwear on game day (No comments, please, about them once being white), it pains me to heap praise on anybody wearing orange stripes.

But one has to admire what Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning did Monday night in Jacksonville in only his second NFL start. If Browning had worn uniform number 9 instead of number 6, he would easily have passed for Joe Burrow. Well, if you turn the 9 upside down you have 6 and Browning certainly turned the Jaguars upside down.

He completed 32 of 37 passes for 354 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions during the Bengals 34-31 overtime win.

—BACK ME UP: Speaking of back-up quarterbacks, maybe momma shouldn’t want her babies to grow up to be quarterbacks.

With the NFL regular season about half over, at least 11 starting quarterbacks are either out for the season or have missed time due to injuries.

These teams are using back-ups or have had to use them at some point this season: Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And unfortunately, all the rest are just a sack or sneak away from joining the others. Every quarterback is playing chutes and ladders on every snap. Talk about guts? Tom Petty might have been singing about them when he sang, “I’ll stand my ground, and I won’t back down.”

—KING JAMES VERSION: Say what you please about some of the things LeBron James says off the court, but he talks even louder on the court.

In a game Tuesday during which his Los Angeles Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns, 106-103, James scored 31 points, handed out 11 assists and grabbed eight rebounds.

He played 40 of the 48 minutes. . .and the man is 39 years old, the same age Jack Benny always claimed to be.

—QUOTE: From comedian Jack Benny about age: “Age is something that doesn’t matter unless you are a cheese. Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” (If LeBron James is a cheese, he’s isn’t Swiss because there are no holes in his game.)

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