Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox talk at Baseball Hall of Fame Press Conference
Q. Tony, you mentioned growing up in Tampa that your parents told you to dream big, but you didn’t think of this. What were your hopes when you signed of going forward into baseball?
Dec 9, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Baseball Hall of Famer managers Tony La Russa, Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre, Tommy Lasorda, Frank Robinson and Bobby Cox pose for a photo during the MLB Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. Image Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, because of living in Tampa, you had the White Sox? Cincinnati in spring training, my dad was just a classic six day a week, hard laborer, worked so hard, it was hard for him to do anything except rest a little bit and enjoy family. But on Sunday during that one spring, 30 days, we would pick Tampa or St.Pete and I was just a kid, and we also had the influence of Al Lopez growing up in Tampa, just an amazing, amazing man, who would come back to the neighborhood, never changed.
So I grew up in a baseball atmosphere and the dreams were always, hey, my dad would push me, he said you can do this. I thought, well, when I was a kid, that would be nice. As you get older you think maybe, and then you realize that it’s the best baseball in the world. And in my case, when you weren’t good enough to play, if you could stay around as a coach or a manager you’d be part of the best baseball in the world, it’s a dream come true. I’ve never worked a day in my life. Earning money in an occupation that I love. So it started when I was a kid and my parents were the ones that started it.
Q. Congratulations. I’m curious if each of you could identify someone who is or would be most proud of you today.
BOBBY COX: Well, of course our family. We have 8 children, 14 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren. But I do know another guy that would be very proud, two guys, really. The fellow that signed me, Red Adams, when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, gave me a chance to play pro baseball. And the other one would be Al Campanis that allowed Red to sign me. And he was the scouting director at the time for the Dodgers at old Wrigley Field were the offices.
And I remember getting a check in the mail in 1968 and I signed in 1959, for $2,500 and it was from Al Campanis, and the Dodgers, it was some type of bonus that I didn’t even realize was in my contract. And I’ll never forget what Al said, he said, I’m the proudest guy ever, sending money to somebody. You know how tight they were in those days, but I finally made the big leagues, and I was awarded $2,500 for doing it.
TONY LA RUSSA: I think first family, because of the sacrifices. When you’re in baseball, especially when you start coaching, managing, you’re gone half the time. Even when you’re home your mind is someplace else. So I think they realize that this is very special and something that’s worthwhile as far as the sacrifices they made. Baseball wise, I grew up in Tampa with some really good coaches, but John McNamara was a manager in the minor leagues and a little bit in the big leagues, he was smart enough not to play in any. But later on our staff had a very personalized approach, we tried to build relationships, and I think back to Johnny Mac. Johnny really cared for us. And we tried harder for him, I thought, because we knew that he cared for us. So we always followed that over.
Loren Babe was the manager of AAA, he really opened up managing, but as I said, I got to the big leagues and Whitey gave me and Chuck Tanner and Sparky, all these guys. But I will say that there at the end Kissell, who was like a father to me, like to many, put his arm around me many times with a hug and I loved him and then I had a great chance for 16 years being in Red Schoendienst, and I think they feel pretty good about this.
JOE TORRE: Well, again, like everybody else, family. My mom, who is no longer with us. My brother, Rocco, and of course all my family, my extended family in Cincinnati, my wife Ali is one of 16 children, so it’s going to be a little crowded.
But the one person who probably put in the most time with me and learned the most baseball from, and you’ve heard the name before, Kissell. As I said, I came to St. Louis, I was starting to mature and they asked me to play third base. George would be out there at 7:30 every morning. He put me face against the wall and he’d throw the balls from behind me and it was tireless. And he had all these little gimmicks in order to help me play the position. I think if there was one person in baseball that would be most proud it would be Kissell, because he would sit next to me in spraining training and say all right, count one to nine, and he’d have me going around all the positions and just count one to nine to make sure everybody was where they should be, instead of saying you should have been playing over here. There were a lot of things I never thought to think about until really I associated with Kissell.