Piniella: 'Best thing that happened to me'
Lou Piniella put on pinstripes Sunday for the first time in 23 years, and he sure was happier than he was on Dec. 7, 1973, when he first became a Yankee.
Piniella recalled receiving a call back then from Royals GM Cedric Tallis, telling him he had been dealt for Lindy McDaniel. "I actually cried because I loved Kansas City," he said Sunday. "But I'll tell you this, that was the defining moment of my career, the best thing that ever happened to me. When I came here, they were just starting to put it together again. They had had some rough times when CBS owned the ballclub. Mr. Steinbrenner bought it and they were putting it back together."
George Steinbrenner later gave Piniella his start in a long career as a successful and dirt-kicking manager. Said Piniella: "I'll tell you this, this is the truth, too. When I first started managing the Yankees, Mr. Steinbrenner got me in the lobby in Fort Lauderdale. He said, 'Your primary job is to win baseball games, managing this team.' But then he said, 'Now look, you get paid to put fannies in the seats, too, so when you get kicked out of a game, put on a good show.' "
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Mel Stottlemyre, Johnson's former pitching coach, sent a congratulatory text. "Real quick in the text, I said, 'I'm not looking for a job.' " Someone suggested to Darryl Strawberry that Johnson might be looking for a bench coach. "No way," Strawberry said. "Me and him would be fighting."
A year after his funeral, George Steinbrenner was missed. Oscar Gamble recalled the last time he and fellow alumni Blomberg and Mickey Rivers visited him in his suite. One of them asked Steinbrenner if he remembered forcing Gamble to trim his well-publicized Afro. "They said, 'Well, look what you did to him,' " said Gamble, whose head is completely shaved now. He added, "He could get on you. You'd be mad when he'd get on you, but you could always talk to him.''