Tony La Russa

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In his first campaign with the Cardinals in 1996, the team clinched the National League Central division title (and also finished National League runner-up), a feat his clubs repeated in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2009. The Cardinals also tied for the National League Central crown with the Houston Astros in 2001. In 2002, La Russa became the first manager to win the Manager of the Year award four times. His fourth award was arguably the most emotional; La Russa led the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series (where they ultimately lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants) in a year in which the Cardinals were traumatized by the deaths of beloved Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck and 33-year-old pitcher Darryl Kile just four days later. On September 10, 2003, he won his 2,000th career game as a manager against the Colorado Rockies, becoming the seventh to reach the mark in Major League Baseball. [24]

The 2004 team played one of the finest seasons in Cardinals' history, as they won 105 games. After a regular season in which the Cardinals led the NL in runs scored (855) while allowing the fewest (659), La Russa's Cardinals defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series, 3 games to 1. [25] [26] St. Louis then took on the Houston Astros in the National League Championship Series. In a tense series with opposing pitcher Roger Clemens at the top of his game, Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen hit a game-winning two-run home run off Clemens in Game 7 following Jim Edmonds' rally saving catch. [27] This home run sent the Cardinals to the World Series for the first time since 1987. However, they were swept in four games by a historic Boston Red Sox team that had just surmounted a 3–0 deficit against the New York Yankees and captured their first championship since 1918. [28]

Tony La Russa on the outfield warning track at Busch Stadium on June 29, 2002. Tony LaRussa 2002.jpg
Tony La Russa on the outfield warning track at Busch Stadium on June 29, 2002.

In 2006, the Cardinals returned to the World Series, this time with a 4–1 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The team's 83–78 regular season record is the worst ever by an eventual World Series champion, usurping the 1987 Minnesota Twins' 85–77 campaign. La Russa became the second manager to win a World Series in both the American League and National League – a distinction shared with his mentor Sparky Anderson.

When he came to St. Louis, La Russa wore number 10 to symbolize the team's drive to their 10th championship and pay tribute to Anderson, who wore number 10 while manager of the Cincinnati Reds. [29] After winning the championship, he chose to continue wearing number 10 to pay tribute to Anderson. [30]

La Russa led the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series, after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS (3–2), and then the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS (4–2). The Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the World Series to win the franchise's 11th World Championship, and the third of La Russa's managerial career. He passed Bobby Cox for 2nd place on the all-time postseason wins list with his 68th win in Game 3. [31] Three days following the World Series win, La Russa announced his retirement, ranking second all-time in postseason wins with 70, third all-time with 2,728 regular season wins, second with 5,097 games managed, and second with 33 years (tied) managing with John McGraw. He finished his Cardinals career with a 1408–1182 regular season record and 50–42 postseason record. [18]

La Russa also became the first manager in Major League Baseball history to retire in the same season after winning a World Series title. [32] Even though he had retired, La Russa managed the National League All Stars in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game for the final time as a member of the Cardinals. [33] The National League won 8–0.

Return to Chicago White Sox (2021–2022)

After serving in various executive roles for MLB and for several teams, La Russa was announced as the manager of the White Sox on October 29, 2020, replacing Rick Renteria. [34] At 76, La Russa became the oldest manager in MLB. [35] He also became the first manager in baseball history to return to managing after being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager. [36] A. J. Hinch was known to be another finalist, but was hired by the Detroit Tigers instead when the White Sox decided on La Russa. [37]

On June 6, 2021, La Russa passed John McGraw for second place in all-time managerial wins. La Russa led the White Sox to their first AL Central division title since 2008. They lost to the Houston Astros in the 2021 ALDS, three games to one. [38]

In 2022, at 77 years of age, La Russa was the oldest manager in major league baseball, four years older than Dusty Baker. [39] But the 2022 season for the White Sox did not go well. On June 9, La Russa faced criticism for a game costly decision he made. The White Sox were trailing 7–5 to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Dodgers had a runner on 2nd base in the top of the 6th. The count was 1–2 on Trea Turner when La Russa issued an intentional walk on Turner which baffled everyone. The decision immediately backfired as the next batter, Max Muncy, hit a home run 5 pitches later that eventually won the game for the Dodgers. La Russa defended his decision saying "that wasn't a tough call" and that he would do it again. [40] La Russa would do it again. This time on August 19 against the Cleveland Guardians when he walked Oscar González on a 1–2 count down by 3 in the bottom of the 7th which did not backfire this time. [41] On August 31, 2022, the White Sox announced that La Russa was out indefinitely after undergoing tests on his heart. At that point, the White Sox were 63–65. [42] On October 3, La Russa announced that he was retiring for good, effective immediately. [43]

Managerial record

As of games played on August 26, 2022.

Tony La Russa
Tony La Russa by Gage Skidmore.jpg
La Russa in 2017
Infielder / Manager
Born: (1944-10-04) October 4, 1944 (age 79)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
May 10, 1963, for the Kansas City Athletics
Last MLB appearance
April 6, 1973, for the Chicago Cubs
TeamYearRegular seasonPostseason
GamesWonLostWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
CWS 1979 542727.5005th in AL West
CWS 1980 1607090.4385th in AL West
CWS 1981 1065452.5093rd in AL West
CWS 1982 1628775.5373rd in AL West
CWS 1983 1629963.6111st in AL West13.250Lost ALCS (BAL)
CWS 1984 1627488.4575th in AL West
CWS 1985 1628577.5253rd in AL West
CWS 1986 642638.406Fired
OAK 1986 794534.5703rd in AL West
OAK 1987 1628181.5003rd in AL West
OAK 1988 16210458.6421st in AL West54.556Lost World Series (LAD)
OAK 1989 1629963.6111st in AL West81.889Won World Series (SF)
OAK 1990 16210359.6361st in AL West44.500Lost World Series (CIN)
OAK 1991 1628478.5194th in AL West
OAK 1992 1629666.5931st in AL West24.333Lost ALCS (TOR)
OAK 1993 1626894.4207th in AL West
OAK 1994 1145163.4472nd in AL West
OAK 1995 1446777.4654th in AL West
OAK total1,471798673.5421913.594
STL 1996 1628874.5431st in NL Central64.600Lost NLCS (ATL)
STL 1997 1627389.4514th in NL Central
STL 1998 1628379.5123rd in NL Central
STL 1999 1617586.4664th in NL Central
STL 2000 1629567.5861st in NL Central44.500Lost NLCS (NYM)
STL 2001 1629369.5742nd in NL Central23.400Lost NLDS (ARI)
STL 2002 1629765.5991st in NL Central44.500Lost NLCS (SF)
STL 2003 1628577.5253rd in NL Central
STL 2004 16210557.6481st in NL Central78.467Lost World Series (BOS)
STL 2005 16210062.6171st in NL Central54.556Lost NLCS (HOU)
STL 2006 1618378.5161st in NL Central115.688Won World Series (DET)
STL 2007 1627884.4813rd in NL Central
STL 2008 1628676.5314th in NL Central
STL 2009 1629171.5621st in NL Central03.000Lost NLDS (LAD)
STL 2010 1628676.5312nd in NL Central
STL 2011 1629072.5562nd in NL Central117.611Won World Series (TEX)
STL total2,5911,4081,182.5445042.543
CWS 2021 1629369.5741st in AL Central13.250Lost ALDS (HOU)
CWS 2022 1286365.4923rd in AL Central
CWS total1,322678644.51326.250
Total [18] 5,3872,8842,499.5367161.538

Executive career

Shortly after his retirement from the playing field, La Russa took a position with MLB assisting former managerial rival Joe Torre in matters of on-field discipline. He held this position for more than two seasons.

On May 17, 2014, La Russa accepted a position as Chief Baseball Officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks to oversee the entire baseball operations department. [44] [45] [46]

After joining the Diamondbacks in 2014, La Russa was reunited with former assistants Duncan and McKay, and the general manager who hired him to manage the White Sox in 1979, Roland Hemond. [46] On December 4, 2015, the Diamondbacks agreed to a six-year contract with free agent pitcher Zack Greinke worth a total of $206.5 million. At that time, it held the highest annual average value in MLB, exceeding $34.4 million per year, and was also the largest contract by total value in team history. [47] La Russa was demoted to Chief Baseball Analyst/Advisor with the Diamondbacks following a disappointing 93-loss season in 2016, which also resulted in the firing of general manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale. Following the 2017 season, La Russa resigned. [48]

In November 2017, the Boston Red Sox announced that La Russa had joined the team as vice president and special assistant to Dave Dombrowski, the president of baseball operations. [49] In making the announcement, the Red Sox indicated that La Russa would assist with player development, serve as an advisor to the team's coaches at the major and minor league levels, and serve as a consultant for Alex Cora, the team's major league manager. [50] La Russa worked with the Red Sox for two seasons, and after Dombrowski was released by the Red Sox during the 2019 season, the Los Angeles Angels hired La Russa as senior adviser for baseball operations in November 2019. [51]

Legacy

La Russa in 2008 Tony La Russa May 2008.jpg
La Russa in 2008

La Russa is second in major league history in victories as a manager (2,901), trailing only Connie Mack (3,731) and surpassing John McGraw (2,763) on June 6, 2021. He managed 5,097 games, joining Mack as the second manager or coach in American sports history to reach 5,000 games. [52] [53] [54] In 2004, he became the sixth manager in history to win pennants with both American and National League teams; in 2006 he became the first manager ever to win multiple pennants in both leagues and the second manager to win the World Series in both leagues. La Russa has also joined Mack as the second manager to win World Series titles in three decades and to win pennants in four. He is one of only four managers to be named Manager of the Year in both of baseball's major leagues.

La Russa is the winningest manager in St. Louis Cardinals history, with 1,408 wins and 1,182 losses (.544) and one tie, managing the Cardinals from 1996 to 2011. He was 522–510–3 (.506) with the Chicago White Sox 1979–1986, leading the club to its first postseason appearance in 24 years in 1983, and 798–673 (.542) with the Oakland Athletics 1986–1995, winning three consecutive AL pennants from 1988 to 1990; he also holds the record for victories by an Athletics manager since the franchise relocated to Oakland in 1968.

La Russa became the leader in wins by Cardinals' managers on August 31, 2007, when the Cardinals defeated the Cincinnati Reds 8–5, passing Red Schoendienst (1,041–955) to take the title. He managed his 2,500th win against the Royals at Kansas City on June 21, 2009, becoming only the third manager to attain that win level after Mack and McGraw. [55] [56]

Tony La Russa's number 10 was retired by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. Tony La Russa's number 10.png
Tony La Russa's number 10 was retired by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012.

After the retirement of Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox in 2010, La Russa was the longest tenured manager in Major League Baseball, and with the resignation of longtime NBA head coach Jerry Sloan from the Utah Jazz on February 10, 2011, La Russa had been the longest tenured bench boss among all the Big Four sports leagues, until his retirement following his 2011 World Series victory with the Cardinals.

La Russa became eligible as a candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013 through voting by the Expansion Era Committee for induction in 2014. On November 4, 2013, La Russa's inclusion on the Expansion Era ballot was announced with fellow former Cardinals Ted Simmons, Joe Torre and Dan Quisenberry. The Baseball Writers' Association of America's Historical Overview Committee listed the candidates on the ballot and voted the following December 8. [57] La Russa was inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame class as a manager. [58]

In January 2014, the Cardinals announced La Russa among 22 former players and personnel to be inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum for the inaugural class of 2014. [59]

In 2012, he became the second manager to manage the All-Star Game (2012) after retiring since John McGraw in 1933. With his All-Star Game 8–0 win in Kansas City, he became the first manager to win an All-Star Game in both leagues. [60]

Championships earned or shared
TitleTimesDatesRef
American League champion 3 1988, 1989, 1990
National League champion 3 2004, 2006, 2011
World Series champion 3 1989, 2006, 2011

Personal life

La Russa at a fundraiser for the Animal Rescue Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona, in March 2017 Tony La Russa by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg
La Russa at a fundraiser for the Animal Rescue Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona, in March 2017

La Russa and his second wife, Elaine, are the founders of Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, headquartered in Walnut Creek, California, which saves abandoned and injured animals as well as running programs to bring dogs and cats to abused children, hospital patients, seniors and shut-ins. La Russa is a vegetarian. [61] The La Russas have two daughters, Bianca and Devon, and reside in Alamo, California.

La Russa has two older daughters, Andrea and Averie, from his first marriage to Luzette Sarcone. La Russa and Sarcone divorced in 1973 and Sarcone received full custody of their daughters. La Russa married Elaine Coker shortly after his divorce to Sarcone became official. [62]

La Russa is also personal friends with celebrities outside the sports world, such as pianist and songwriter Bruce Hornsby, Bruce Springsteen, jazz bassist Christian McBride, and heavy metal musician Robb Flynn from the band Machine Head.[ citation needed ] In 2007, at a concert in San Francisco on La Russa's birthday, Hornsby played a comedic song he named "Hooray For Tony". The original song, titled "Hooray For Tom", is La Russa's favorite Hornsby song. In the "Hooray For Tony" version, Hornsby mentions the "Bash Brothers" Mark McGwire and José Canseco (from La Russa's days as the manager of the Oakland A's), Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, ARF, and La Russa's World Series Championships.[ citation needed ]

La Russa is a graduate of the University of South Florida (Bachelor of Arts in industrial management, 1969) and the Florida State University College of Law (Juris Doctor, 1978). [63] [64]

La Russa has Italian and Spanish ancestry, and speaks fluent Spanish. [65] [66] [67] His father's parents were migrants from the Italian island of Sicily and his mother's family originated from Spain. [68] Having a father who could speak Spanish and Italian and a mother who could speak Spanish, La Russa claimed in a 2008 interview that "Spanish was my first language". [68] He was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. [65] La Russa was also inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame on April 11, 2008, in a pregame ceremony at AT&T Park. [67]

La Russa and his family had an uncredited extra role in the film Angels in the Outfield . The La Russas also made an appearance in an episode of Housecat Housecall , a reality show on Animal Planet presented by Purina Cat Chow, during the show's third season, which began on June 5, 2010.[ citation needed ] In 1980, La Russa appeared as a contestant on the game show To Tell The Truth , and helped fool the celebrity panel. [69]

In June 2010, La Russa was asked about a tea party protest taking place during his game against the Arizona Diamondbacks that criticized the Diamondbacks' position against the controversial new Arizona immigration statute. La Russa expressed support for the Tea Partiers' right to free speech to protest at the ballpark. He also stated, "I'm actually a supporter of what Arizona is doing... you know if people don't fix their problems they have to take care of it themselves". [70]

La Russa and Pujols attended Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally on August 28, 2010, in Washington, D.C., while the Cardinals were in town for a series against the Washington Nationals. [71] La Russa decided to attend after being told by Beck that the rally was not political in nature. [72]

Throughout the 2011 season, La Russa struggled with shingles. He originally disclosed that it was conjunctivitis, however, on May 10, after a visit to the Mayo Clinic (Scottsdale, Arizona), he disclosed that he was dealing with a case of shingles, and had to take off a few days for treatment and rest. [73] Because bench coach Joe Pettini was named 'acting manager' instead of 'interim manager', La Russa was credited for all wins and losses during his absence. [74]

On June 4, 2009, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that La Russa had sued the online social network platform Twitter the previous month for a fake page established under his name on the site. La Russa claimed that he had "suffered significant emotional distress (and) damage to reputation" because of the profile. The fake profile made several "distasteful references" to La Russa and his team, according to the suit. [75] Twitter's terms of service forbids impersonation directly, stating that users "may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others." [76] Reports that Twitter had settled ("the first celebrity lawsuit against the 32-million-user site", according to the Wall Street Journal ) were rebuffed on the official Twitter blog. La Russa eventually filed a request to dismiss the suit, while Twitter, whether in regard to the suit or not, continued improving its privacy protections. [77]

In May 2014, La Russa served as the Washington University in St. Louis commencement speaker. [78]

On March 22, 2007, La Russa was arrested in Jupiter, Florida, for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was found asleep at the wheel of his running SUV with the car in park at an intersection. He was booked at the Palm Beach County Jail and blew a .093 blood alcohol content, above the legal limit of .08. [79] Calling his arrest on the DUI charge an "embarrassment", La Russa apologized to "anyone who is close to me, members of the Cardinals organization, our fans." He was defended by the organization and some players, such as Albert Pujols. On November 28, 2007, La Russa pleaded guilty to DUI, saying that it was in the best interest of all concerned. In a statement released by his attorney, La Russa said, "I accept full responsibility for my conduct, and assure everyone that I have learned a very valuable lesson and that this will never occur again".

In February 2020, La Russa was charged with DUI again, this time in Phoenix; the case was filed on October 28, 2020, a day before he was rehired by the White Sox. [80]

Health

By 2022, his last season as a manager, La Russa was diagnosed with cancer, and had lingering issues with his pacemaker. [81]

In other media

In 1980, La Russa appeared as the subject in a round of the Robin Ward-hosted version of To Tell The Truth . Panelist Nipsey Russell seemed perplexed that there was another Chicago baseball team besides the Cubs. One of the imposters before the panel, when queried as to who was his best player at the moment, swiftly responded Todd Cruz. This resulted in him receiving votes. But he did not completely stump the panel.

In 2012, La Russa released his New York Times bestselling memoir, One Last Strike, which recounts his legendary last season as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and their remarkable journey to becoming the 2011 World Series Champions from ten and a half games back.

In 2005, La Russa was the focus of a book by sportswriter Buzz Bissinger. Bissinger's Three Nights in August delves into La Russa's role as manager during a 3-game series in 2003 between his Cardinals and manager Dusty Baker's Chicago Cubs, their longtime rivals. The book received much praise from both fans and critics, though some complained that Bissinger sets out to glorify La Russa's "old school" managerial style as a direct challenge to the statistical analysis theses of Michael Lewis's 2004 book Moneyball .

As David Leonhardt of The New York Times wrote of the "stats vs. hunches" debate in an August 29, 2005 piece, "what makes this fight truly comparable to those that periodically roil the world of art history or foreign policy is that the differences between the sides are not as great as the sniping between them suggests. La Russa spends much of his time jotting down information on index cards and studying statistics in his office."

George Will's book Men at Work likewise depicted La Russa and his long-time pitching coach Dave Duncan as making more use of statistical analysis than any other team in the major leagues (this book was published in 1990, more than a decade before the Moneyball revolution).

La Russa also provided the AI for a series of successful video games, Tony La Russa Baseball (1991–1997). The games won numerous awards and featured "new" statistics selected with La Russa (and provided by prominent sabermetrics authors John Thorn and Pete Palmer) as tools for players as they managed their teams.

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The 2021 Chicago White Sox season was the club's 122nd season in Chicago and 121st in the American League, and their first under returning manager Tony La Russa since 1986. The White Sox played their home games at Guaranteed Rate Field. On September 23, after a win against the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox clinched the American League Central for the first time since the 2008 season and became the first Major League team of the 2021 season to clinch their division. They finished the regular season with 93 wins, the third most in the American League and their most wins as a franchise since the 2005 season. By winning the American League Central, it secured the team their first back-to-back postseason appearance in franchise history after having clinched a wild card berth in the previous season. They lost to the Houston Astros in the 2021 American League Division Series.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2021 American League Division Series</span>

The 2021 American League Division Series were the two best-of-five-games series in Major League Baseball (MLB) that determined the participating teams of the 2021 American League Championship Series. The three divisional winners, seeded first through third, and a fourth team—determined by the AL Wild Card Game—played in two series. These matchups were:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2022 Chicago White Sox season</span> Major League Baseball team season

The 2022 Chicago White Sox season was the club's 123rd season in Chicago, their 122nd in the American League and their 32nd at Guaranteed Rate Field.

References

General
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