La Russa has 1,232 wins and 1,034 losses (.544) with 1 tie as manager of the Cardinals [1996 through October 4, 2009]. He was 522–510–3 (.506) with the Chicago White Sox 1979–1986, and 798–673 (.542) with the Oakland Athletics 1986–1995. His 2,000th game managing the Cardinals came on May 31, 2008. Two of his wins from 1999 have been in dispute; Rene Lachemann is sometimes credited with the wins for the Cardinals while La Russa was hospitalized for a stomach ulcer. As baseball rules give the temporary acting manager no credit for a win or loss when standing in for the manager because of absence due to illness, La Russa gets the credit for the two wins.
On August 22, 2007, he passed Bucky Harris to become the third-highest manager of all-time in total games managed in baseball history in his 4,409th game; behind only Mack and McGraw. 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.
On October 1, 2009, he passed John McGraw for second-most games managed in baseball with his 4,770th game managed (2,552-2,214-4). La Russa had three more games (October 4) to extend his managed games to 4,773 (2,552-2,217-4) by the end of the 2009 season.
With the retirement of longtime Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox after his last game on October 11, 2010, La Russa became the longest tenured manager in Major League Baseball. With the resignation of longtime NBA head coach Jerry Sloan from the Utah Jazz on February 10, 2011, La Russa also became the longest tenured bench boss among all the Big Four sports leagues.
Playing careerLa Russa was born October 4, 1944 signed by the Kansas City Athletics as a middle infielder prior to the start of the 1962 season. He came up to the A's the next season, making his debut on May 10, 1963. In the following off-season he suffered a shoulder injury while playing softball with friends, and the shoulder continued to bother him during the remainder of his playing career.
Over the next six seasons, La Russa spent most of his time in the minor leagues, making it to the now-Oakland A's roster in 1968 and 1969. He spent the entire 1970 season with the big club, and then late in 1971 the A's traded him to the Atlanta Braves. His final big league playing stop was with the Chicago Cubs, where he appeared as a pinch runner in one game, on April 6, 1973. He also spent time in the organizations of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals.
In 132 total games played, (40 in the starting lineup), he went 35-for-176, a batting average of .199. His 23 walks pushed his on base percentage to .292. He had 7 RBI and scored 15 runs. He made 63 appearances at second base, 18 at shortstop, and two at third base, fielding .960 in 249 total chances and participating in 34 double plays.
Managerial careerLa Russa earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Florida State University College of Law, was admitted to the Florida Bar on December 19, 1974, and is associated with a Sarasota law firm although he is not eligible to practice at this time. La Russa has been quoted as saying, "I decided I'd rather ride the buses in the minor leagues than practice law for a living." Shortly before graduating from FSU College of Law LaRussa spoke with one of his professors about his post-graduation plans, indicating to his professor that he had an opportunity to coach in the minor leagues and asking his professor what he should do. LaRussa's professor responded, "Grow up, you're an adult now, you're going to be a lawyer." He is one of a select number of major league managers in baseball history who have earned a law degree or passed a state bar exam; others include John Montgomery Ward (New York Giants, Brooklyn and Providence, late 1800s), Hughie Jennings (Detroit, 1907–20, New York Giants, 1924), Miller Huggins (St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees, 1913–29), Muddy Ruel (St. Louis Browns, 1947), Jack Hendricks (St. Louis Cardinals, 1918, Cincinnati, 1924–29), and Branch Rickey (St. Louis Browns, 1913–15, St. Louis Cardinals, 1919–25).
Chicago White SoxThe White Sox gave La Russa his first managerial opportunity in 1978 by naming him skipper of their Double-A affiliate, the Knoxville Sox of the Southern League. La Russa spent only a half-season at Knoxville before being promoted to the White Sox coaching staff when owner Bill Veeck changed managers from Bob Lemon to Larry Doby. But Doby struggled in the managerial role and was fired at the end of the season; Don Kessinger, former star shortstop of the crosstown Cubs, was named the White Sox' player-manager for 1979, and La Russa was demoted to manager of the Triple-A Iowa Oaks of the American Association.
But Kessinger was not the answer, either. The ChiSox were only 46–60 when he was fired and La Russa was summoned from Iowa, two-thirds of the way through the 1979 season. The White Sox played .500 baseball for the rest of the '79 campaign, and La Russa's career was launched. He credits Paul Richards with first inspiring him to believe he could succeed as a major league manager. He was named American League Manager of the Year in 1983, when his club won the AL West but fell to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series. The White Sox fired La Russa after the club got off to a 26–38 start in 1986. The General Manager at the time, Ken 'The Hawk' Harrelson. had a disastrous one-year reign in the position which included moving future Hall-of-Fame Catcher Carlton Fisk to LF. Before becoming GM, the Hawk was the team's play-by-play man; he has been in that role since being fired as GM.
Oakland A'sLa Russa had a vacation of less than three weeks before his old club, the Athletics, called him to take over as manager. He led the club to three consecutive World Series, from 1988 to 1990, sweeping an earthquake-delayed Series from the San Francisco Giants in 1989. In 1988 and 1990, La Russa's Athletics lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds in significant fashion, despite the fact that the A's were heavily favored on both occasions. He earned two additional Manager of the Year awards with the A's, in 1988 and 1992, again winning the Western Division in the latter year. After the 1995 season, in which the A's finished 67–77, the Haas family, with whom La Russa had a close personal relationship, sold the team after the death of patriarch Walter A. Haas, Jr. La Russa left to take over for Joe Torre at the helm of the St. Louis Cardinals.
St. Louis Cardinals
In his first campaign with the Cardinals, in 1996, La Russa clinched the National League's Central Division pennant (and also finished National League Runner-Up), a feat his club repeated in 2000, 2001, 2002 (his fourth Manager of the Year award), 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2009 (the Cardinals also tied for the National League Central crown with the Houston Astros in 2001). He became the first manager to win the award four times. La Russa's fourth Manager of the Year award was arguably the most emotional; La Russa led the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series (where they would ultimately lose 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.
In 2004, the Cardinals won the National League pennant, accruing a first place overall record of 105–57. After defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 games to 1, in the National League Division Series, and the Houston Astros, 4 games to 3, in the NLCS, they went to the World Series for the first time since 1987, where they played the Boston Red Sox, but were swept, and because the American League had home-field advantage, having won the All-Star Game, Busch Memorial Stadium was where the Curse of the Bambino died.
2006 saw a return to the World Series, this time with a 4–1 victory over the Detroit Tigers, managed by Jim Leyland. 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 is now the second manager to win a World Series in both the American League and the 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. After winning the championship, he chose to continue wearing number 10 to pay tribute to Anderson.
It was as a player with the A's that La Russa first met catcher Dave Duncan, who would join his coaching staff in Chicago in 1983. The two have worked together on every La Russa-managed team ever since, and he often credits Duncan as playing a key role in his success.
On October 22, 2007, La Russa signed a two-year deal to remain with the St. Louis Cardinals as manager, which would extend his reign to a Cardinals' record 14 years. He signed a one-year extension on October 26, 2009.
In October 2010, La Russa signed a one year extension for the 2011 season, with an option for 2012.
Batting OrderLa Russa is known for his unusual preference of having the pitcher bat eighth in the batting order (normally the pitcher, usually the poorest hitter on a NL team, bats ninth). He started using this order during the 1998 season, from July 9 to September 27, and again in 2007 La Russa lined up pitcher Joel Piñeiro to bat in the 8th spot.
La Russa has argued that he wants a position player to bat in the ninth spot, to increase the possibility of having "men on base" for Albert Pujols (who bats third in the order).
ControversyOn 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 while at a green light. He was booked at the Palm Beach County Jail and blew a .093 blood- alcohol content, above the legal limit of .08. 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 players, such as Albert Pujols. On November 28, 2007 La Russa pleaded guilty to DUI, saying it was in the best interest of all concerned. "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," La Russa said in a statement released by his attorney.
On June 4, 2009 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that La Russa had sued the online social network platform Twitter in May, 2009 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. 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." Reports that Twitter had settled the suit ("the first celebrity lawsuit against the 32-million-user site" according to the Wall Street Journal) were rebuffed on the official Twitter blog, and the status of the lawsuit remains undetermined.
Personal lifeLa Russa was married to Luzette Sarcone from 1965–1973, with whom he has two daughters, Andrea and Averie.
|Tony & Elaine La Russa|
La Russa is also personal friends with celebrities outside the sports world, such as pianist and songwriter Bruce Hornsby, Bruce Springsteen and jazz bassist Christian McBride. 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.
La Russa has Italian and Hispanic ancestry, and speaks fluent Spanish. He was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. 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.
La Russa has an uncredited extra role in the film Angels in the Outfield.
La Russa 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.
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."
La Russa and Pujols made headlines when they 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. LaRussa decided to attend after being told by Beck that the rally was not political in nature.
La Russa in books and computer gamesIn 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 depicts 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.
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.
Major League managerial record
|World Series Championship|
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|Won||Lost||Win %||Finish||Won||Lost||Win %||Result|
|CHW||1979||27||27||.500||5th in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|CHW||1980||70||90||.438||5th in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|CHW||1981||31||22||.585||3rd in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|CHW||1981||23||30||.434||6th in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|CHW||1982||87||75||.537||3rd in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|CHW||1983||99||63||.611||1st in AL West||1||3||.250||Lost to Baltimore Orioles in AL Championship Series|
|CHW||1984||74||88||.457||5th in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|CHW||1985||85||77||.525||3rd in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|CHW||1986||26||38||.406||5th in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|OAK||1986||45||34||.570||3rd in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|OAK||1987||81||81||.500||3rd in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|OAK||1988||104||58||.642||1st in AL West||5||4||.556||Lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series|
|OAK||1989||99||63||.611||1st in AL West||8||1||.889||1989 World Series Champions|
|OAK||1990||103||59||.636||1st in AL West||4||4||.500||Lost to Cincinnati Reds in World Series|
|OAK||1991||84||78||.519||4th in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|OAK||1992||96||66||.593||1st in AL West||2||4||.333||Lost to Toronto Blue Jays in AL Championship Series|
|OAK||1993||68||94||.420||7th in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|OAK||1994||51||63||.447||2nd in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|OAK||1995||67||77||.465||4th in AL West||-||-||-||-|
|OAK Total||798||673||.572||19||13||.594||3 AL Pennants & 1 World Series Title|
|STL||1996||88||74||.543||1st in NL Central||6||4||.600||Lost to Atlanta Braves in NL Championship Series|
|STL||1997||73||89||.451||4th in NL Central||-||-||-||-|
|STL||1998||83||79||.512||3rd in NL Central||-||-||-||-|
|STL||1999||75||86||.466||4th in NL Central||-||-||-||-|
|STL||2000||95||67||.586||1st in NL Central||4||4||.500||Lost to New York Mets in NL Championship Series|
|STL||2001||93||69||.574||1st in NL Central||2||3||.400||Lost to Arizona Diamondbacks in NL Division Series|
|STL||2002||97||65||.599||1st in NL Central||4||4||.500||Lost to San Francisco Giants in NL Championship Series|
|STL||2003||85||77||.525||3rd in NL Central||-||-||-||-|
|STL||2004||105||57||.648||1st in NL Central||7||8||.467||Lost to Boston Red Sox in World Series|
|STL||2005||100||62||.617||1st in NL Central||5||4||.556||Lost to Houston Astros in NL Championship Series|
|STL||2006||83||78||.516||1st in NL Central||11||5||.688||2006 World Series Champions|
|STL||2007||78||84||.481||3rd in NL Central||-||-||-||-|
|STL||2008||86||76||.531||4th in NL Central||-||-||-||-|
|STL||2009||91||71||.562||1st in NL Central||0||3||.000||Lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in NL Division Series|
|STL||2010||86||76||.519||2nd in NL Central||-||-||-||-|
|STL||2011||12||10||.545||1st in NL Central|
|STL Total||1330||1120||.543||39||35||.527||2 NL Pennants & 1 World Series Title|
|Total||2650||2303||.535||59||51||.536||5 Pennants & 2 World Series Titles|