The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.
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Welcome home, Sweet Lou
Posted Aug 24, 2010 by Tom McEwen
Updated Aug 24, 2010 at 05:57 PM
Thank you, Sweet Lou.
Thank you for quitting on top. Thanks for coming home to Tampa, as you said, to be with your mother who did so much for you in your youth, who put you on the road to the Bigs, for instilling in you the drive, the verve, the vinegar, the passion, and the demand to be the best that you became, as a player, as a hitter, as a fielder, as a coach, as a successful manager in so many clubs, as a championship manager with the New York Yankees, under George Steinbrenner, where you and he, in your frenzies seem to come out about even.
Thank you, Lou Piniella, for producing the great teams that you did and for successfully emulating the great manager and neighbor, Al Lopez, as you did. Thank you for setting records, for winning arguments with umpires, for getting as close to an umpire’s face as anyone ever has. Thank you for kicking a water cooler, a bucket, and a vase to record distances and for adding the color that you did to baseball. Lopez, who grew up in the same general neighborhood you did in West Tampa, was as good as he could be, as were you. He was proud of you and now, from a distance above, he is more proud of you.
Thank you, Lou, for acknowledging that you sought to manage and be the man Al Lopez was and you became. Thank you for never forgetting your place of learning on those ball fields in West Tampa, later learning grounds for the likes of Tino Martinez and Tony LaRussa and others who excelled in following those same routes through Al Lopez Field to the Bigs and succeeding like you did.
You said your mother, who just turned 90, was your driving force and now is the one to whom you and your wife, Anita (a former Miss Tampa), now plan to return to Tampa for her Golden Years ahead. It was easy to see where your fire came from. I once asked your mother about your temper, to which she exclaimed through the phone, “WHAT TEMPER?”
Now, you are telling the world that you had enough of those cluttered dugouts, enough of all of the fuss of the Majors, even the drama of playing championships in both the American and National Leagues. Years ago, I was there at Fort Homer Hesterly when you signed your bonus contract to play in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles. I remember you told me then, you had every intention of going to the top, and you did.
Your ambitions were early instilled in you by your mother and your late Dad, who died a few years ago after a lifef of selling his cigars. I remember he had his cigar wagon parked outside of his house in West Tampa, in front of the youth baseball field, now named Lou Piniella Field, on the same street, in the same cigar factory neighborhood, it remains today.
Piniella went on to become a star outfielder for the University of Tampa Spartans where he once caught a baseball in the outfield in his glove, from where he was eating a sandwich. and the baseball splattered all over him and the mitt. Lou caught the ball.
Thank you, Lou Piniella, for never forgetting your Tampa friends, including Mandy Flores, Carmine and Malio Iavarone, Steve Malzone, Mac Greco and Tony Gonzalez.
I remember the party the Tampa Police and the University of Tampa had for you at Carmine’s old restaurant and then the one Steinbrenner had for a full house at old Malio’s old restaurant on Dale Mabry that was packed but cut short because it was built around a boxing match that ended with an early round knock out.
Now, thank you, Sweet Lou, for all of these great friendships you built and kept and all of these events that were built around your successes in the Bigs, including another sellout at the old International Inn, then owned by the late Bill Watson.
Lou, have you considered seeking to reincarnate yourself so that we can keep on partying around your career.
Babaloo, Lou! And again Welcome Home!