Tony La Russa: A Hall of Fame tribute

Illustration by Dave Merrell


On Tony La Russa's Hall of Fame plaque, it will tell you all about the 2,728 games and three World Series he won as a big league manager. But there's so much that plaque can't possibly tell you.

It can't tell you about that look in his eye on game day, as his brain shifted into turbo-drive, racing through a ballgame at a speed most managers couldn't comprehend. It can't tell you about the thousands of hours of intense preparation La Russa poured into every one of those 5,097 games he managed, looking for edges and opportunities many of his peers wouldn't have recognized if they'd flashed on the computer screen in blinking red lights.

And there is no way that plaque can sum up all the ways in which La Russa invented -- or is that reinvented? -- modern managing. He never, ever accepted the idea that a manager's job was just to keep the troops happy and to write out the lineup card. He left his imprint on every game he managed. He found bullpen matchups for every occasion. He hit the pitcher eighth. He never stopped searching for seemingly innocent quotes, glances and purpose pitches he could use to pour fuel into his team's tank.

So it doesn't seem adequate to call La Russa just a manager. He was a game-changer. In every way. For three amazing decades.

-- Jayson Stark


See more photos of Tony La Russa and the other five members of the 2014 class. Launch gallery »


BORN: Oct. 4, 1944
FROM: Tampa, Florida
TWITTER: @tonylarussa
SEASONS: 33 (1979-2011)
TEAMS: Chicago White Sox, Oakland A's, St. Louis Cardinals
RECORD: 2,728-2,365


• Won three AL pennants (1988-90), three NL pennants (2004, 2006, 2011) and World Series in 1989, 2006 and 2011
• Teams finished in first place 12 times -- winning five AL West and seven NL Central titles
• Finished with better than .500 record in each of his three stops
• His 2,728 wins are the third most of any manager in history
• Won Manager of the Year award four times (1983, 1988, 1991, 2002)
• One of only two managers (along with Sparky Anderson) to win World Series titles in both leagues



"He's been successful because he's smart and knows the game. He's always prepared. He doesn't have bad days. He's the same every day. His approach is the same every day."
--Dave Duncan, La Russa's longtime pitching coach

"The strategy during a game -- just to watch what he does, he's always thinking ahead instead of thinking about in that moment. He already knew what that moment was all about, but he was thinking ahead two, three, four hitters ahead or innings."
--Mark McGwire

"He's been like a father to me and, in my opinion, is one of the greatest managers in the history of the game."
--Albert Pujols

"I'm a great believer in the character of the club. To me, character has a lot to do with how you compete. That creates urgency and toughness. That elevates the talent that you have."
--Tony La Russa