Tony La Russa has managed 5,142 games in his career, but he is about to do something he has never done in 34 years of baseball: manage a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I’ll be honest, it’s going to be uncomfortable,” La Russa told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “It’s like when I was managing against Jim Leyland. You got to do it. … I’ll never be able to truly express how much I appreciate the uniform for 16 years and the people and the fans of St. Louis.”
La Russa, of course, has been under fire since being named Chicago White Sox manager. He was arrested for DUI before being hired. He heard claims that the game had passed him by, only to hear those doubters grow louder once he forgot the rules, unaware of a new rule that permits managers to use a position player instead of a pitcher as a baserunner to start on second base in extra innings. Then he called Yermin Mercedes, the White Sox’s star rookie, “clueless” after ignoring a take sign in a blowout against the Minnesota Twins.
Despite that, the White Sox are 26-19 and one of the best teams in the American League. The matchup against the Cardinals could be a potential World Series preview, adding to the intrigue of La Russa’s first game managing against his former team.
The Cardinals roster looks significantly different from when he managed, with Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright as the last players remaining from the La Russa era. But his impact is still seen all over the organization. He went 1408-1182 in 2591 games as manager. He won two World Series titles, including in his final season in St. Louis, and won three pennants while going down as easily the best manager in franchise history.
La Russa managing against his old team is the latest chapter in his storied career. And while this season has certainly come with its ups and downs, he should be nothing but celebrated by the Cardinals organization and its fans.