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07/13/10 2:43 PM ET

Piniella calls Steinbrenner 'father figure'

Cubs manager, a former Yankee, and Ricketts speak of Boss

CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella and George Steinbrenner had their share of run-ins, but the former Yankees player and manager had nothing but respect for "The Boss," who passed away Tuesday.

"George was like a father figure to me," Piniella said in a statement issued by the Cubs. "He treated me well, he treated me fair and he gave me a wonderful opportunity to play and manage the game we all love."

Piniella played for Steinbrenner and the Yankees from 1974-84, winning World Series rings in 1977 and '78, and managed the team in 1986, '87 and '88, although not without some interruptions. Steinbrenner dismissed him twice, replacing Piniella with Billy Martin, then rehired "Sweet Lou."

Piniella guided the Cincinnati Reds to the World Series championship in 1990, sweeping the Oakland Athletics. Piniella reportedly said after the triumph: "See, George, I can manage."

Despite their run-ins, Steinbrenner respected Piniella as well.

"I don't know if I've had another player who cared so much," Steinbrenner said in a 2001 Sports Illustrated article by Frank Deford about Piniella. "Such instinct and desire."

"George will be remembered as one of the most influential and renowned owners of a franchise in sports history," Piniella said in the statement released Tuesday. "He leaves a legacy of winning and an unwavering passion for success.

"My wife Anita and I send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the Steinbrenner family and the Yankees organization," Piniella said. "George was very special to me and I loved him."

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts also issued a statement upon the passing of Steinbrenner, who celebrated his 80th birthday on July 4.

"My family and I are sad to learn of the passing of George Steinbrenner early this morning," Ricketts said. "He will be truly missed by players, fans and all of Major League Baseball.

"George will be remembered for the leader he was, the championships he brought into being and his many contributions to America's pastime," Ricketts said. "My family and all of Cubs Nation send our condolences to the Steinbrenner family, the Yankees and their fans."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.