Lou Piniella, who managed 23 seasons in the major leagues, including 10 with the Mariners, missed out on a chance to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday. But Bud Selig, who as an owner yanked Seattle’s first MLB franchise, the Pilots, out of town in 1970, did make it as commissioner emeritus. Selig and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz were the only two elected among 10 candidates.
Also up for induction were former players Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser and Mark McGwire, former manager Davey Johnson and former owner George Steinbrenner. A panel of 16 former managers, executives and long-time retired players, acting as the “Today’s Game Era Committee,” cast the ballots.
Selig and Schuerholz, the architect of the dominant Atlanta Braves teams in the 1990s, will be part of the 2017 class of Hall of Famers that will enter Cooperstown July 30, 2017.
Selig, then a Milwaukee automobile salesman, purchased the Pilots out of bankruptcy court in the spring of 1970 and moved the team to his hometown, rebranding them the Brewers. The state of Washington, King County and City of Seattle subsequently sued the American League over the relocation, and won the case following a lengthy court trial in Everett.
As part of the settlement, Seattle received an expansion franchise, the Mariners, who began play in 1977. Selig later served as commissioner from 1998 to 2015. He most notably presided over the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and baseball’s “steroid era.”
Piniella, who had a 20-year career as a player (1964-84), managed 23 seasons for the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs, winning 1,835 games – 14th on the all-time list. Piniella skippered the Reds to the 1990 World Series title and joined the Mariners in 1993. At that time, Seattle had experienced only one winning season in its 16 years of existence.
Piniella, who became one of the most popular figures in Seattle’s pro sports history, rectified that in 1995 when the Mariners overcame a 13-game deficit in August to win the AL West. The Mariners knocked off the Yankees in a riveting division-series matchup that provided the impetus for the construction of Safeco Field and the team’s long-term viability in the Pacific Northwest. Piniella was named the AL’s Manager of the Year.
Piniella’s 1997 Mariners, behind unanimous AL MVP Ken Griffey Jr. (56 home runs) and 20-game winner Randy Johnson, won another AL West title. Seattle reached the postseason as a wild card in 2000 and Piniella then managed one of the greatest regular-season teams in MLB history in 2001 when the Mariners, led by league MVP Ichiro Suzuki, won 116 games.
That performance tied one of the game’s oldest records, matching the 1906 Chicago Cubs while setting an American League standard. Again, Piniella was named Manager of the Year. The Mariners have not reached the postseason since, the longest playoff drought in MLB. All four of Seattle’s postseason appearances came under Piniella’s direction.
After 10 seasons in Seattle, Piniella departed in 2003 to take over his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays. That proved to be the only one of his five managerial stops where he did not post a winning record.
After three seasons in Tampa, Piniella moved to Chicago in 2007, leading the Cubs to back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since 1908 and winning the National League Manager of the Year Award in 2008.
Piniella, famous for his many entertaining tantrums, was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame in 2014. He remains the winningest manager in franchise history with a record of 840-771.