Hall Of Famer Tony LaRussa
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Managers get too much credit for winning and too much blame for losing.
I’m very pleased to see Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Most managers are pretty much interchangeable. LaRussa and Torre separated themselves from the pack, but in different ways. Torre had to deal with the cantankerous George Steinbrenner and a lot of high priced, high strung talent. The Yankees won and won big. Torre separated himself from the managerial pack with the long term success while with the Yankees.
LaRussa also won big during his career. For me, LaRussa separated himself from the pack in a different manner and a manner that no one should have to endure. On several occasions, he had to get his teams ready to play--and play well in the wake of some truly life changing and tragic circumstances.
First, there was the Earthquake Series in 1989. After a 12 day delay, LaRussa’s A’s were focused on baseball despite the interruption by a major quake that upended daily life in much of the Bay Area. They completed a four game sweep of the San Francisco Giants.
Then came September 11, 2001. The Cardinals were 5 games off the pace behind Houston at the close of play on September 10th. After the disruption caused by the terrorist attacks, the Cardinals came out, played their best baseball of the season and caught the Astros. Both teams finished with 93-69 records. LaRussa’s team was one of the best teams in baseball down the stretch while some teams seemed to fold up after a nearly week long delay.
LaRussa also had to deal with in-season deaths of two players. Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room in Chicago during the 2002 season. That team scuffled along until mid August when they caught fire and rolled to the Central Division title. Then early in the ’07 season, reliever Josh Hancock was killed in a traffic crash. That ’07 team battled back into the thick of the post season race by Labor Day only to have a series of injuries catch up with an aging roster.
Focusing a group of young men on a daily basis isn’t easy—especially with the complications that come with those young men being highly paid, egotistical in dome cases, and occasionally resistant to good, solid advice.
The above mentioned incidents are what separates Tony LaRussa from the managerial pack in my book.