ST. LOUIS — Tony LaRussa shocked the baseball world Monday, announcing his retirement as St. Louis Cardinals Manager after 33 years as a manager in Major League Baseball. LaRussa made the announcement just three days after winning the third World Series Championship of his career and his second with St. Louis.
LaRussa leaves the game as a champion, innovator and the third winningest manager in MLB history. LaRussa’s managerial career began in 1979 when he was hired to manage the Chicago White Sox, a position he would hold until 1986. In Chicago, LaRussa’s biggest accomplishment was winning the American League West Division in 1983. He was let go after a 26-38 start in the 1986 season; this move is one White Sox Owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, has regretted for a long time. LaRussa and Reinsdorf are still good friends to this day. He posted a 522-510 record while on the south side.
Three weeks after being let go in Chicago, the Oakland Athletics hired LaRussa to take over as their skipper. It was here LaRussa took his managerial career to a whole new level. LaRussa took the A’s to three consecutive World Series in 1988-1990, winning it all in 1989 against the San Francisco Giants. LaRussa is probably best known in Oakland for what he did with his bullpen, by converting starter Dennis Eckersley to the closer. At the time, this was fairly new to MLB, and even Eckersley was not thrilled at first. LaRussa also started to really look at lefty-lefty and righty-righty match-ups. Once LaRussa took his starter out, there was no telling how many relievers might appear in a game. Many MLB managers took note and moves like these are common-place in the game today. Eckersley later followed LaRussa to St. Louis and is number three on the all-time saves list with 390. Following the sale of the A’s in 1995, LaRussa left the organization and headed for St. Louis. LaRussa compiled a 798-673 record in Oakland.
LaRussa’s arrival in 1996 was welcomed by Cardinals fans everywhere. LaRussa would replace Joe Torre. During his 16 years as manager, LaRussa won seven division titles, took the Cardinals to three World Series and won two championships. He managed the likes of Mark McGwire (also played for LaRussa in Oakland), Dennis Eckersley, Ozzie Smith and most recently, Albert Pujols. His players always respected him and would always give 110%. LaRussa also had the privilege of having the same pitching coach in St. Louis as he did in Oakland, Dave Duncan. Duncan is known for how he deals with pitchers to get the most out of them. I can’t imagine a LaRussa managed team without Duncan standing next to him in the bullpen. Together, the two got more out their pitchers than most. Following the recent World Series victory against the Texas Rangers, LaRussa announced he was retiring. A shock to everyone in the baseball world. Before the World Series ended, I heard a report from a Chicago radio station that he was reportedly coming back for a 17th year – that was a week ago. He compiled a record of 1,408-1,182 at the helm in St. Louis.
Mr. LaRussa is known as a legend on the field but his off the field work should not be overlooked. Tony and wife, Elaine, founded Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in Walnut Creek, Calif. years ago. The foundation runs programs allowing cats and dogs to visit abused children, hospital patients and seniors. It also works to save abandoned and injured animals. The goal is to save helpless animals and make others smile who are going through tough times.
Tony LaRussa will be elected to the the Hall-of-Fame in five years. His statistics as manager speak for themselves:
- LaRussa won 2,728 games in his career and is number three on the all-time list (John McGraw won 2,763 games and Connie Mack won 3,731 games).
- He won three AL Pennants and three NL Pennants.
- Three World Series titles, one in Oakland and two in St. Louis.
- LaRussa in the winningest manager in St. Louis Cardinals history with 1,408 wins.
- He earned three AL Manager of the Year Awards (1983, 1988 and 1992) and one NL Manager of the Year Award (2002).
We likely will not see a manager that had as much impact as LaRussa did in the game for a very long-time. He changed the way managers use their bullpens, he frequently batted the pitcher in the eight hole, and he never cared how anyone viewed him. Like him or not, he will go down as one of the best ever and he revolutionized baseball.
There is one question that remains: Does Tony LaRussa still have one game to manage? His team won the National League Pennant, earning him the right to coach the National League in the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City. Only time will tell.
The Good In Sports salutes Tony LaRussa for his accomplishments on and off the field and is proud to present him with a Gold Star in Baseball. Thank you for the memories, Tony.
- If you would like more information about Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, please visit: http://www.arf.net
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