|Tony La Russa|
La Russa in 2017
|Infielder / Manager|
|Born: October 4, 1944|
|May 10, 1963, for the Kansas City Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|April 6, 1973, for the Chicago Cubs|
|Runs batted in||7|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Vote||100.0% (Expansion Era Committee)|
Anthony La Russa Jr. (; born October 4, 1944) is the former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics and Chicago White Sox and a former American professional baseball player in Major League Baseball (MLB). In November 2019, he joined the Los Angeles Angels as a senior advisor of baseball operations. His MLB career has spanned from 1963 to the present, in several roles. In 33 years as a manager, La Russa guided his teams to three World Series titles, six league championships and twelve division titles. His 2,728 wins is third most for a major league manager, trailing only the totals of Connie Mack and John McGraw.
As a player, La Russa made his major league debut in 1963 and spent parts of five major league seasons with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs. After a shoulder injury during the 1964-65 off-season, he played much of the remainder of his career in the minor leagues until retiring in 1977. Following his playing career, he earned a Juris Doctor degree from Florida State University.
La Russa was named manager of the White Sox in the middle of the 1979 season and guided the White Sox to an American League West division title four seasons later. Despite being fired in the middle of the 1986 season, the Athletics hired him less than three weeks later, and La Russa led the A's to three consecutive American League championships from 1988 to 1990 and the 1989 World Series title. He left Oakland following the 1995 season to manage the Cardinals, and led the team to three National League championships and the 2006 and 2011 World Series titles. La Russa retired after winning the 2011 title and 33 seasons as a major league manager. Three months later, he accepted a position assisting fellow former manager Joe Torre, the executive vice president for MLB operations. In 2014, he became the Chief Baseball Officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
On December 9, 2013, he was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame by the 16-member Veterans Committee. The induction ceremony was held at Cooperstown, New York, on July 27, 2014. On August 16, 2014, he was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum.
Born in Tampa, Florida, on October 4, 1944, to Anthony and Olivia (Cuervo) La Russa, Anthony Jr's paternal grandparents had emigrated from Sicily and his mother's family from Spain. He was raised in Ybor City, where his parents had met while both were working in the local cigar factory.
La Russa made his major league debut on May 10, 1963, after having played 76 games with A's affiliates Binghamton Triplets and Daytona Beach Islanders in 1962. He spent the entire 1963 season in the majors, as was required by his signing as a "bonus baby." He had suffered an off-season shoulder injury while playing softball with friends, and this limited him to only 34 games in 1963, in which he hit .250. The injured shoulder bothered him through the remainder of his playing career.
Over the next six seasons, La Russa spent most of his time in the minor leagues. He made it back up to the A's, which had since moved to Oakland, in 1968 and 1969. He spent the entire 1970 season with the big guys, 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, scoring the walk-off winning run. He also spent time in the organizations of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals.
In total, he played 132 major-league games, 40 in the starting lineup. He went 35-for-176, for 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.
Having started coursework following his A's signing in 1962, La Russa graduated from the University of South Florida in 1969 with a degree in Industrial Management. He earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Florida State University College of Law in 1978.and was admitted to the Florida Bar on July 30, 1980. He 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, La Russa 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. La Russa'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 James Henry O'Rourke (Buffalo Bisons, 1881-84, Washington Senators, 1893), 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). La Russa is also commonly credited for the advent of the modern specialized bullpen.
La Russa credits Loren Babe and Paul Richards of the White Sox organization for helping him to become a manager. The 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 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. Doby 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 named manager of the Triple-A Iowa Oaks of the American Association, choosing to manage in the minors after the White Sox had offered him his same major league coaching role.
The White Sox fired Kessinger with a 46–60 record two-thirds of the way through the 1979 season and replaced him with La Russa. The White Sox played .500 baseball (27-27) for the rest of the 1979 campaign. LaRussa, at 34, was the youngest manager in the major leagues. He credits Paul Richards with first inspiring him to believe he could succeed as a major league manager. La Russa 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. In 1986, General Manager Roland Hemond, who had hired La Russa as White Sox Manager, was replaced by the White Sox' broadcaster Ken Harrelson as General Manager. Harrelson then fired both La Russa and coach Dave Duncan during the season. Ironically, Harrelson and La Russa were teammates at Binghamton in 1962. In later years, White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf expressed regret for allowing La Russa to be fired. He finished his White Sox career with a 522-510 regular season record and a 1-3 postseason record. Decades later, Hemond would say of La Russa: "Tony La Russa is one of the most brilliant managers that I ever encountered in my baseball career. He saw things other people didn't see. There were some managers who thought he was out of line with what he was trying to do, but later on they had to respect him because it was working. There's no question he changed the way the game is played."
La Russa had a break of less than three weeks before his old club, the Athletics, called him to take over as manager. LaRussa and Duncan both joined the A's, inheriting a team that was 31-52 and in 7th place. They went 45-34 the rest of the season to finish in 3rd place in 1986.
La Russa managed the Oakland A's to three consecutive American League Pennants and World Series appearances from 1988 to 1990. The A's swept the earthquake-delayed Bay Area 1989 World Series from the rival San Francisco Giants. The previous season, the A's had lost the 1988 World Series to manager Tommy Lasorda and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In their third consecutive appearance, the favored A's faced manager Lou Piniella, LaRussa's childhood teammate and friend and his Cincinnati Reds in the 1990 World Series. La Russa's Athletics were swept by the Cincinnati Reds. In both 1988 and 1990 the A's had swept the Boston Red Sox 4-0 in the ALCS, after winning 100 and 99 games respectfully. The 1988 World Series was made famous by the Kirk Gibson game winning home run off of A's Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley. La Russa earned two American League Manager of the Year awards with the A's, in 1988 and 1992, giving him three AL awards, the latter after again winning the Western Division.
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.. In the off-season, La Russa left Oakland to take over for the fired Joe Torre as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. La Russa had a 798-673 regular season record and a 19-13 postseason record with Oakland.
In his first campaign with the Cardinals in 1996, La Russa clinched the National League Central Division title (and also finished National League runner-up), a feat his clubs 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. The 2004 edition was arguably one of the finest seasons in Cardinals' history as they won 105 games and won another 100 the next year. 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.
After a 2004 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. 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. This home run sent the Cardinals to their first World Series for the first time since 1987. However, they met a Boston Red Sox team that had surmounted a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees who swept them in four games.
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 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 worked together on every La Russa-managed team after, and he often credits Duncan as playing a key role in his success.
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 post-season wins list with his 68th win in Game 3. 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.
La Russa also became the first manager in Major League Baseball history to retire in the same season after winning a World Series title. Even though he had retired, La Russa managed the National League All Stars in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game for the final time in his managerial career. The National League won 8-0.
|Team||From||To||Regular season record||Postseason record|
|G||W||L||Win %||G||W||L||Win %|
|Chicago White Sox||1979||1986||1032||522||510||.506||4||1||3||.250|
|St. Louis Cardinals||1996||2011||2591||1408||1182||.544||92||50||42||.543|
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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
La Russa ranks third in major league history in victories as a manager (2,728), trailing only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763). He managed 5,097 games, joining Mack as the second manager or coach in American sports history to reach 5,000 games. 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 1 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.
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. La Russa was inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame class as a manager.
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.
|American League champion||3||1988, 1989, 1990|
|National League champion||3||2004, 2006, 2011|
|World Series champion||3||1989, 2006, 2011|
La Russa and 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. The La Russas have two daughters, Bianca & 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.
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. 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 Spanish ancestry, and speaks fluent Spanish. His father's parents were migrants from the Italian island of Sicily and his mother's family originated from Spain. 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." 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 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. In 1980, La Russa appeared as a contestant on the game show To Tell The Truth, and helped fool the celebrity panel.
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 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. La Russa decided to attend after being told by Beck that the rally was not political in nature.
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. 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.
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 a stop sign. 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 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. 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 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.
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.