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The Bond Between Piniella & Steinbrenner That You Never Knew About

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Lou Piniella joined the Yankees in 1974, and George Steinbrenner had already established himself as the team’s principal owner since 1973. Steinbrenner, known for his demanding and often volatile management style, found a kindred spirit in Piniella, whose fiery competitiveness and dedication to the game matched Steinbrenner’s own.

Steinbrenner appreciated Piniella’s grit and determination on the field. Despite the owner’s often harsh public persona, he had a soft spot for players like Piniella who played with heart and passion. Piniella, in turn, respected Steinbrenner’s commitment to building a winning team and his willingness to invest in the team’s success.

Throughout Piniella’s playing career with the Yankees (1974-1984), he became a trusted player in the outfield and later, as a designated hitter. Steinbrenner and Piniella shared many conversations about the team’s strategies and player performances. Their relationship deepened during this period, marked by mutual respect and understanding.

In interviews, Piniella often spoke fondly of Steinbrenner. “George was tough, but he was fair,” Piniella once said. “He wanted to win, and so did I. That was our common ground.” Steinbrenner echoed this sentiment, stating, “Lou always gave 110% on the field. You could always count on him to leave everything out there, and that’s what I loved about him.”

After retiring as a player, Piniella transitioned to coaching and eventually managed the Yankees from 1986 to 1988. This period tested their relationship, as the pressures of managing under Steinbrenner’s watchful eye could be intense. Despite the challenges, their bond remained strong.

Steinbrenner once remarked, “Lou is like family to me. We may have our disagreements, but I know his heart is in the right place.” Piniella, too, appreciated Steinbrenner’s unwavering support. “George was always there for me, both in good times and bad. He cared about his players and his managers more than people realized. 

Even after Piniella left the Yankees, their friendship endured. Steinbrenner’s loyalty to Piniella was evident when he attended Lou’s managerial games with other teams, showing public support for his friend. When Steinbrenner passed away in 2010, Piniella was one of the many who spoke at his memorial, highlighting their close bond.

In an emotional tribute, Piniella said, “George was more than just a boss to me; he was a friend and a mentor. He had a big heart, and he always looked out for me. I will miss him dearly.”  Their relationship was one of the many fascinating dynamics within the Yankees organization, showcasing that beneath the public personas were two men who deeply respected and cared for each other.

–Alvin Izzo
BYB Yankee History Contributor


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