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September 16, 2010

Talkin' Lou Piniella with George Castle

Shortly after the All-Star break, Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced that he would retire following the 2010 season.

On August 22…he decided to call it quits so he could tend to his ailing mother.

One man who got to know Piniella on a level that few did is sportswriter (and good friend of The Hall of Very Good) George Castle. I recently had a chance to catch up with the author of Sweet Lou and the Cubs: A Year Inside the Dugout.

HOVG: What was your relationship like with Piniella?

CASTLE: My relationship with Lou was interesting. A master needler in his Yankees days, he used that quality on me when I'd ask sometimes garden-variety questions. But, look out, if I asked a "cerebral" (he pronounced it "celebal") question, Lou was agitated. "Where do you come up with those profound questions?” he’d ask. Anything that asked him to conceptualize an issue, he did not care for. Meat-and-potatoes questions were preferred.

HOVG: From throwing bases in Cincinnati to his fiery antics with umpires, Piniella conjures up plenty of memories…what is your favorite?

CASTLE: My favorite Lou memory? Anytime he tried to answer something where he wasn't sure of the answer, and a malaprop resulted. He was second only to ol' Mayor Richard J. Daley as a Chicago public figure with malaprops. At least he was better than Harry Caray on names...he usually got the writers' names right.

HOVG: Any good stories you can share?

CASTLE: Yeah, I was the recipient of 2 of Lou's biggest post-game rants, in 2007 ("You saw the damn game!") and 2010 ("What kind of baseball do you play?"). But I never took offense as Lou's old-school, managers always yelled at reporters and the only difference was there were cameras present compared to times when it was just writers, as Lou with the Reds.

HOVG: Any regrets?

CASTLE: I wish I got to know Lou better, but one on one access to him was restricted. You just could not walk into his office and shoot the bull as I did with past Cubs managers. That's the regret of his tenure in Chicago. Some questions are best asked one on one, without the confrontational or stage-fright setting of a press conference. And you get to know each other better this way.

HOVG: And lastly...should Piniella be considering for enshrinement in Cooperstown?

CASTLE: I do think Lou, on the basis of his total baseball achievements, will one day be in the Hall of Fame.

George Castle is a lifelong Chicagoan and has been covering baseball for a variety of newspapers and magazines since 1980. In 1994, Castle began “Diamond Gems” and four years later, he penned his first book.

His latest effort, When the Game Changed: An Oral History of Baseball's True Golden Age: 1969-1979, hits the shelves October 5. In the book, Castle recreates the sport’s most revolutionary decade via the memories of those who played, managed, and covered baseball from 1969 to 1979.

You can pre-order your copy over at Amazon.

I’ve had the privilege to talk with Castle on a few different occasions. You can read them here:

Talkin' Baseball with George Castle

Talkin' Hall of Fame Baseball with George Castle

So what do you think…is Lou Piniella is Hall of Famer? Let’s hear your thoughts!

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