A word that over the years has gradually become part of my vocabulary is “kudos.” Lou Pisani, a longtime local coach, scout, volunteer and sage observer of baseball who died Saturday at age 93, is the one responsible.
A lot of baseball people named Lou are obligatorily referred to as “Sweet.” As in “Sweet” Lou Johnson and “Sweet” Lou Piniella and “Sweet” Lou Whitaker.
Lou Pisani was “Sweets” Lou, plural. He would hand out chocolate bars and sticks of gum and hard candy to those he encountered at the diamond.
When we first met, he gave me Kudos, uppercase, as in the granola bar covered in chocolate. Like the confection itself, the term stuck.
Sweets Lou was a volunteer assistant at UNLV then under longtime Rebels coach Fred Dallimore. During the summertime, he had the same title with the Las Vegas 51s.
Coach Lou — the nickname by which most reverently referred to him — spent 30 years at Las Vegas High and coached the Wildcats to three state championships before finishing his prep coaching career at Bishop Gorman. He was inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
“Just a wonderful, wonderful guy, ” Las Vegas Aviators president Don Logan said. “Good family man. He cared about kids. He cared about our game.”
Proud of pinstripes
Logan said nothing made Pisani prouder than putting on a baseball uniform.
When he was a bird dog scout for the San Francisco Giants, the visiting Phoenix Firebirds would invite him to hit fungoes or pitch batting practice at Cashman Field.
“When the Rebels would play on Saturday afternoon and we were playing a night game, he’d show up at the ballpark in his uniform,” Logan recalled.
Though Pisani was not under contract at UNLV, Dallimore insisted on taking him on selected trips much to the dismay of the UNLV athletic bean counters.
He’d then explain what Coach Lou meant to the Rebels. Like the one season he still was coaching high school ball and UNLV’s uniforms were late in arriving. Coach Lou offered the Rebels use of Las Vegas High’s new baseball duds, which had “LV” on the caps and were similar in color.
“He always found a way to contribute to our success in some capacity,” Dallimore said. “I always had a special place in my heart for Lou because he loved the game. And he was willing to give something back to the game that was so good to him.”
Line drives in boxscores
Coach Lou was a Navy veteran who played baseball for Pete Newell, the legendary college basketball coach, at the University of San Francisco and minor league ball in Canada. He met his wife, Rosemary, who died in 2015, at USF; they were married for 63 years. They helped found Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic parish and had three daughters — Veronica, Juliana and Lyndalou, and a son named Lou who answered to Sam. They had a full lineup card with 14 grandkids and seven great grandchildren.
“Did you know that dad once saved a young man’s life?” eldest daughter Veronica asked Monday as the sisters played pepper with the telephone, handing it back and forth to share stories about Coach Lou.
The young man was named Stephen Fleming. He was 15 years old when coach discovered his unresponsive body at the bottom of the deep end of the Dula municipal swimming pool. It was Coach Lou who performed CPR.
The young man became an orthodontist in Las Vegas. Years later when single mom Juliana’s four kids required braces, Dr. Fleming did the honors at a greatly discounted price.
As they often say in the game he loved, these are the kind of things that sometimes don’t show up in the boxscore. But let the record show that Lou Pisani, a sweet man known for handing out Kudos at the ballpark, probably was the one who deserved them the most.