I understand why people in St. Louis are a little bit bummed. I get it. Tony La Russa gave the Cardinals not one, but two, World Series titles in his illustrious decade and a half run as Redbirds manager.
The team even retired his number along with the likes of Stan Musial, Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith.
This franchise gave Tony so much. So it’s only natural to be disappointed in his decision to leave his cap blank when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer. It’s almost like the love St. Louis and the Cardinals gave to Tony was not returned.
Sorry, but I’m not buying that.
If anyone has ever paid any attention to Tony La Russa over the years - in baseball and out of baseball - it’s quite clear that he’s quite possibly the most loyal person you’ll find. And when you were the manager for three teams in your career - White Sox, A’s, Cardinals - that’s a lot of loyalty to give.
So just because the majority of Tony’s Hall of Fame career took place in St. Louis while wearing a Cardinals cap, that doesn’t change the fact he led two other ball clubs during his career. And both, understandably, hold a very special place in his heart.
The most difficult one for us to understand is the White Sox. Tony managed in Chicago from 1979 until getting fired during the 1986 season. He was named AL Manager of the Year in ‘83 but never advanced to the World Series, let alone won one.
But here again, Tony is loyal. He’ll never forget being given his first opportunity to manage. The White Sox gave him that. He believes if it weren’t for that break he wouldn’t be standing where he is today. And that’s preparing to give a Hall of Fame speech in Cooperstown.
The A’s, of course, were different. The 69-year old was AL Manager of the Year twice while with Oakland and led the A’s to three consecutive World Series (1988-1990), winning in ‘89. He had a terrific run out by the bay.
Still, though, none of that matches up with what Tony did in St. Louis. He was NL Manager of the Year in 2002, he went to three World Series and won two of them. He even had his number retired.
But ranking what accomplishments he had at each stop isn’t enough to warrant choosing one team over the others in Cooperstown. For Tony La Russa, each stop was special for its own special reasons. And that’s not something any individual can possibly understand.
Tony is the only one.