I recently finished reading Tony La Russa’s memoir, One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season. It was an interesting look into the way that he managed game situations and the perfect book to get me hyped up for postseason baseball.
While mainly focusing on the events of the 2011 season, the retired manager does flash back to his playing days and his early days in managing. He gives us a chance to relive an incredible season but from his perspective, which includes a lot of game-management decisions that fans found a way to nitpick at.
There’s a lot of flashbacks that are segued by something that transpired during the season or playoffs.
He also wrote about how he ended up managing the Cardinals after Joe Torre left for New York. It’s interesting to learn that the clubhouse atmosphere was not the best at the time. After that first spring training speech in 1996, Bob Gibson, maybe jokingly, said that he would show up 45 minutes after TLR’s speech was set to begin.
What was interesting to read from a fan’s perspective was the whole debacle that took place in 1996 in the competition between Ozzie Smith and Royce Clayton. There are some jokes from Dennis Ecklersley, who was a converted reliever. He fought early on, especially with the press, when it came to his preference to start instead of relieve.
Tony wrote about what it has been like working with Dave Duncan, the best pitching coach in the history of the game, and Charley Lau, who he describes as the best hitting coach in the game’s history.
While I knew that TLR had a law degree, I didn’t know that the Cardinals played a role in a judicial clerkship in New Orleans. It turns out that the Chicago White Sox had traded him to the Cardinals, where he became a player-coach for the New Orleans Pelicans in 1977. This was where he was first introduced to the legendary George Kissell, who is known as the architect of the Cardinal Way. It’s funny how things work out.
In reading, I got emotional towards the end, not because of how the season turned out for St. Louis but because La Russa touched a bit on that 2002 squad that fought adversity to get to the NLCS.
This is purely a baseball book and not much in the way of anecdotes. Rick Hummel aided the former manager in writing the book, which runs just about 400 pages.