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Going out on top: Tony La Russa announces retirement

Oct 31, 2011, 10:17 AM EDT

2011 World Series Game 4 -Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals Getty Images

Last week every indication was that Tony La Russa planned to return for his 17th season as Cardinals manager and even today when the Cardinals announced a press conference few people suspected it had anything to do with the manager.

Turns out he’s decided to go out on top, with La Russa making the surprise retirement announcement this morning.

La Russa calls it quits just 35 wins away from passing John McGraw for second place on the all-time list behind Connie Mack, but the 67-year-old manager’s place in Cooperstown is plenty secure with a 2,728-2,365 (.536) record over 33 seasons and World Series titles in 1989, 2006, and 2011.


La Russa revealed that he’s been thinking about retiring since August, but general manager John Mozeliak tried to talk him out of it. “I think this feels like it’s time to end it. And it’ll be great for the Cardinals to refresh what’s going on with the field manager job. … Look in the mirror and I know if I came back it would be for the wrong reasons.”

Regarding his retirement plans, La Russa brought up possibly buying a minor-league team and wondered if “the phone will ring” for another job in baseball.

La Russa noted that Dick Vermeil, Bill Walsh, and Sparky Anderson regretted retiring as quickly as they did, but said he’s been thinking about it for a while and the experience of the playoff run never changed his feeling that stepping down was the right thing. “If we won, if we lost, it wasn’t going to change.”

On being 35 wins away from passing John McGraw, he said: “I’m aware of the history of the game, but it wouldn’t be right to come back to manage just to move up one spot. It’s not something that motivates me.”

On telling the team after yesterday’s World Series rally: “I was encouraged that some grown men cried. I liked that, because they made me cry.”

  1. frankvzappa - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    One final good call by La Russa. He knew he was losing it, and after that game he gave away he just got lucky that the Rangers choked. May as well go out on top before people really start to realize that the booze has taken it’s toll.

    • lovesmesomeme - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:43 AM

      Let chris Hansen and moe the bartender know big t is on the loose. He has got at least 162 extra days to party.

      • jakelohr - Oct 31, 2011 at 2:29 PM

        ‘To Catch A Predator’ Host Caught Sexting: Report

        This Chris Hansen? Wow! I’m impressed with such an unimpeachable source.

      • lovesmesomeme - Oct 31, 2011 at 3:22 PM

        You got me on that one. I havent got a smart ass reply. Well played Mauer. He still looks like a perv though and he is a confirmed drunk driver.

    • jakelohr - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:00 AM

      Unnecessarily mean-spirited and mis-informed post.

      • lovesmesomeme - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:34 AM

        I beg to disagree, I spoke to Chris Hansen yesterday when we watching the Broncos and he told me between the first and second course that they had been keeping an eye on TLR. There has been some suspicious Internet traffic coming from from his LAN Internet wireless connection. And the DUI does not need any comment. So if your gonna come after me and my posts get your facts straight.

    • 1historian - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:58 PM

      He among you who is without sin – let him cast the first stone

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 4:53 PM

      Good job Frank. You have managed to receive the most thumbs down on any single post I have read thus far on HBT. Well done Sir!

      • lovesmesomeme - Oct 31, 2011 at 6:12 PM

        Thank you

      • frankvzappa - Nov 1, 2011 at 8:37 AM

        Thank you, thank you. You should read the infamous “Irabu post”, I’m sure it has three times that many by now.

    • walter sikora - Oct 31, 2011 at 6:53 PM

      feck head idiot

      • lovesmesomeme - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:25 PM

        Feck head idiot. Very impressive Walter.

  2. nagrommit - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    CUBS FAN’S WORST FEAR: New St. Louis Cardinals Manager Ryne Sandberg.

    • paperlions - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:57 AM

      Cardinal fans fear that more than Cubs fans.

  3. thefalcon123 - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Whether through luck or through his managerial skill, he presided over one of the most successful era’s in Cardinals history.

    7 1/2 Division Titles (tied 93-69 with the Astros in 2001)
    9 Playoff Appearances
    3 Pennants
    2 World Series Titles

    I love/hated that man for 16 years. I dreamed this day would come, and now I’m sad that it has.

    • 78mu - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:39 AM

      Cardinal fans revere Herzog and always feel more warmly towards him than TLR. But those Herzog teams could follow a great year with a stinker. As frustrating as it was with Tony, the team was usually in contention for most of the season.

      Of course some of the frustration with TLR was a late season collapse after being in contention (2010 for example) and 2011 looked like it would be another example. But somehow this team turned it around and whether it was due to Tony or despite him, it was a heck of a ride.

    • paperlions - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:16 AM

      Faclon you summed up my thoughts pretty well. I am more worried about the ability to replace Duncan than I am about the departure of TLR as there is far more evidence that Duncan can do more with less. There are plenty of quality Manager candidates…I don’t know who you get to mentor/lead the pitching staff.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:30 AM

        Paper: Although I am sad to see this happen (and I know you are at least somewhat pleased)…you hit the proverbial nail on the head. My first thought was A.P….followed immediately after by Dave Duncan. Both are fiercely loyal to TLR. Most of the Veterans and assistants who played for and worked under him for any length of time absolutely love the Man. With World Series title #11 secured (and A.P.’s second)…I initally felt it could help with signing him to a long term contract while not breaking the entire vault. After all…A.P. has always maintained he would like to stay in St. Louis (and equally important) remain competitive. Obviously, the Organization has remained competitive during A.P.’s entire career with the Cardinals (as evidenced by the numerous playoff appearances and (2) W.S. titles). But with TLR leaving I am now very concerned. And back to your point…D.D. will most certainly be leaving (which is equally bad from a pitching standpoint). But there is probably far more to this than we are aware. If I had my guess…I bet D.D. told Tony he wasn’t coming back due to his ailing Wife’s health and that pretty much sealed the deal for TLR. Either way…not good but I am happy to see everyone go out a winner.

      • paperlions - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:26 PM

        I haven’t seen the presser, but if TLR was thinking this back in August…it may be that the Duncan situation made him realize that he wanted to spend more time with his family while everyone was healthy. I don’t know that Duncan leaving would have been a deal breaker for TLR, he seems to independent for that type of approach to life decisions. If I had to guess, he probably just felt that it was time from and age/health/family perspective….and going out a champion was just gravy on top.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:42 PM

        I hear what you are saying…but if he WAS considering this back in August…my guess is it had far more to do with them absolutely stinking it up and the game not being near as much fun (especially at age 67). Then…they made the comeback. Heck…1 1/2 weeks ago he said (regardless if they win the World Series or not)…this has been the most fun he can recall having in MLB. But back to D.D….they have been together for 30+ years. If (and I realize it’s a big if)…D.D. told TLR he was retiring to care for his ailing Wife (which is why he missed the entire Month of September)…I can definately see them wanting to go out together. Cause’ again…they have been together for most of each others entire Professional careers. But you made a valid point (one which I hadn’t considered)…the health problems D.D.’s Wife is having could have certainly been an eye opening experience for TLR (especially at his age).

    • ramsfan34 - Nov 2, 2011 at 9:46 PM

      Very well said. I moved to Saint Louis from Kansas City when I was 12 about the same time Tony La Russa became the field manager of the cardinals. One of the biggest culture shocks of moving from KC to STL was in KC it’s about FootBall but even during the Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” era baseball reigns supreme. I’m still more interested in football yet I’ve enjoyed watching the Cardinals success and while many people here almost expect the Cardinals to be in playoff contention year after year but when you’ve spent your life watching the Royals you really appreciate what La Russa has done.
      Now that La Russa is gone I can’t help but think of him St.Louis’ disgruntled uncle. The guy had some problems and at ‘family gatherings’ he could be humiliating but we loved him anyway and with him gone I’m sure we will miss him.
      I like how refers to Walsh & Vermeil but those two were/are 2 of the classiest men to coach in pro sports. While LaRussa may not have bee as classy as the 2 he certainly is on there level of greatness. How ever if he pulls a Vermeil & returns to another team just 1 year removed I’m going to be pissed.

  4. okwhitefalcon - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Goes out on top as he should with one of the most historic runs to a World title in history.

    Next stop, Hall of Fame.

  5. djdvd - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    That comeback during the regular season and run to win the title is really the best way to go out. If only he would have done that and NOT run Rasmus out of town…

    The game will miss him, though.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:32 AM

      I’m not sure the Cards pull this off without Scrabble, Dotel etc, who they got in exchange for Rasmus, and Colby was a mess late in the year. Even if Rasmus turns into a star, TLR and the Cardinals got a ring out of the deal. I don’t think you can say Rasmus was too high of a price to pay for that.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        Great reply Sabathia. You beat me to it. The guy manages to trump an otherwise good post by spouting off about something for which he apparantly isn’t familiar.

      • djdvd - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:52 PM

        I love the winning cures all mentality. Cards fans were livid with the trade but they make an impossible run with all sorts of collapses, and suddenly LaRussa’s actions are justified? It’s not even the first case of him being that way either. I respect the man but to ignore his flaws under the guise of this improbable win is funny.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 2:13 PM

        DJDVD: As far as this Cardinal fan is concerned…while I was dissapointed to see Colby go (due to his potential for being a five tool player) it absolutely needed to happen. He requested a trade the year prior (for which A.P. called him out for doing so mid season). But prior to last year he had become increasingly more aloof…standoffish…and other wise emotion less. Unfortunately, this had far more to do with his meddling Father (and Colby allowing it) than anything else. Further, this resulted in that potential five tool player only using two of them on a consistant basis. I don’t know where you get your “Cards fans were livid with the trade” because I literally knew a handful of people who were completely against it. Some were certainly dissapointed…but this had far more to do with Colby (the person) and the drama his Father brought with him.
        Most importantly…if the FRONT OFFICE doesn’t make that trade the Cardinals do NOT make the playoffs…let alone their 11th World Series title.
        Let me guess…Cubs fan?

  6. trevorb06 - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    I wonder if Colby Rasmus wishes he had been a good boy and stuck around to potentially win the WS and watch TLR retire. Papi Rasmus has to feel like a big proud man eating some crow right now because that guy he thought was so incompetent just lead his team to win the WS.

    • 78mu - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:29 AM

      The Cardinals should make Daddy Rasmus manager and see if he can win a WS. He’s spent a lot of years acting like he knows more than TLR so here’s his chance.

      • cur68 - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        I am all for repatriating Rasmus to S. Louis. Just want Scrabble back in return. Will also throw in a case of pressed pork (sort of a ‘pre-McCrib”) and some pointless politician that wants to change the Canadian national animal from the Beaver to the polar bear (the people of St. Louis can use her for a dart board) & Celine Dion. Pujols can use Dion for a bat.

      • wlschneider09 - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:02 PM

        Dion would shatter into sharp fragments in response to some hard fastball, spraying dangerously around the infield endagering players, coaches and umpires alike.

        “My parts will go on and on……”

      • cur68 - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:27 PM

        How then Is Dion unlike the current bat technology?

      • wlschneider09 - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        Dion sounds worse

  7. Panda Claus - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    LaRussa’s short-term reasons were sound for retiring now. He’s going out on top and he likely was going to lose his right-hand pitching coach in Dave Duncan. Sitting here on Monday morning knowing what we know now, it’s also easier to imagine this team losing Pujols as well.

    A year from now though, will LaRussa have the same kind of regrets that Dick Vermeil did (retiring too quickly)?

  8. umrguy42 - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:29 AM


  9. ms72lbc - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    That may have very possibly cost the Cardinals their best shot at signing Albert Pujols for life. AP considered TLR to be a father figure.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:34 AM

      I wonder if Albert told TLR that he wasn’t coming back, or the Cards front office said they were not going all in. That might have provided extra incentive for this…

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:00 PM

        I hear what you are saying Sabathia. But my feeling is Dave Duncan told Tony he was calling it quits to care for his Wife (which is why he missed the entire Month of September when the Cardinals were making there run). D.D. has been with TLR for 30+ years. My feeling is they decided to go out together…on top. But I also feel it certainly trumps the World Series title with regards to A.P. making his decision as Albert loves TLR and has steadfastly maintained he couldn’t imagine playing for anyone else.

    • okwhitefalcon - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:37 AM

      Not necessarily, Jose Oquendo is one of AP’s best friends and will be on the short list of candidates to replace TLR.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:57 AM

      Yep…pretty much what I posted as well. I thought A.P.’s 2nd World Series title was really going to help him reach his decision (as he has always maintained he wants to remain competitive). But I am afraid TLR retiring might trump it.

  10. Nick C - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    As a Cards fan, TLR has undoubtedly presided over one of the most successful eras of Cardinals baseball. Thanks for the great job Tony!

    Now anyone have Joe Maddon’s cell phone number? The lifelong Cardinals fan needs to come home.

    • okwhitefalcon - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:40 AM

      There is no doubt the Cardinals will ask Tampa for permission to speak with Joe Maddon.

      • natstowngreg - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:51 PM

        Why on Earth should the Rays grant permission? Makes no sense for them.

      • raysfan1 - Oct 31, 2011 at 9:46 PM

        Stay away from my team’s manager!!

  11. zman801 - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    This puts pressure on the Cardinals to find a quality replacement for TLR. Maybe Franconna might be a good fit.

    • 78mu - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:43 AM

      Franconna has a St. Louis connection, at least his dad did.

      But Terry did win his first WS at the old Busch Stadium so he’s got that going for him.

    • miketreedy - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:59 AM

      I am still hoping the Rangers release Washington and hire Francona. Maybe the Cards can hire Ron Washington. Then the will really appreciate TLR.

  12. missthedayswhenwedidnthavetologin - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    ‘I can’t believe them. When they say that it’s alright. Words can’t define what I feel inside, who needs them?” – Smashing Pumpkins

  13. Jonny 5 - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    It’s almost, Poetic….

  14. kirkmack - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    I remember reading, probably from Gammons, that when Carlton Fisk left Boston, game times decreased about a half hour per game because Fisk’s slowness and trips to the mound no longer slowed down the game. St Louis’s game times will probably decrease by at least that much without all of his trips to the mound.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:02 PM

      Ummm…as a lifelong Cardinals fan I could give a crap about the length of play. I tend to focus more on aquiring the ‘W’s.’

  15. waynesworld47 - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    You did a great job! Thank you for all the 16 years you gave to St. Louis and the Cardinals!
    Had a feeling Friday night after the game, you were going to retire!
    Enjoy your retirement to the fullest.
    You went out on top, as is the way it should be! Noting tops the World Series win!

  16. 8man - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    Brilliant! The final master stratagem of his career. The praises and accolades for what he’s accomplished will be forthcoming.

  17. okwhitefalcon - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    ESPN 101 of St Louis is providing extensive converage of TLR’s retirement announcement, listen here:

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      Thanks for posting Falcon.

  18. thefalcon123 - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    It doesn’t often get mentioned due to the lack of a World Series title, but TRL’s shining managerial season has to be 2002.

    That team had 14 different pitchers make a start due to injury, ineffectiveness and, of course, the death of Darryl Kile. For christsakes, that team won 97 games with Luther Hackman making six starts and managed to finish 4th in ERA. And you want to talk about runs? From August 10th til the end of the year, they went 36-13.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 2:02 PM

      123: You are on point. The 14 pitchers PLUS the tragic death of Darryl Kile.
      Wow…it’s been 9 years. Unreal.

  19. - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    A little surprised by this. But not shocked. Glad to see TLR go out on his own terms.

    Although he never managed a team I rooted for he has been a a part of baseball since I was congnizent of baseball. And thus another peice of my childhood is over.

  20. - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:02 AM


    I can see it.

    • raysfan1 - Oct 31, 2011 at 9:50 PM

      Absolutely NOT!!!

  21. aceshigh11 - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    Going out on top like George Costanza. Smart move.

  22. dpeter11 - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    So much crying! Those guys need to go to Oprah!

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:05 PM

      Really? I can only assume you don’t have a “true” affinity for ANY team. Or is it more like…whomever happens to be winning. If so…Cardinals fan huh?

  23. spudchukar - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Ride off into the sunset Tony, with a well-deserved last laugh.

  24. sportsfan52 - Oct 31, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Bet Ozzie Smith is jumping for joy today

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 31, 2011 at 3:57 PM

      I hear you Sportsfan. Scott Rolen (and Colby Rasmus) probably are as well. Initially…on the surface each incident looked very bad. At a minimum…they reflected poorly on TLR as Ozzie and Scott were highly regarded…incredibly popular players. But once the smoke cleared…the dust settled and the actual accounts of each situation came to lite it became clear the situations were untenable. And I want to qualify this as a Cardinals fan who’s favorite player growing up was Ozzie Smith. A Cardinals fan who still has a #27 Scott Rolen jersey hanging in his closet…it took me a while to forgive and/or get over the anger I had with TLR over both situations. My solution…purchase Ozzie Smith and Bob Gibson jerseys. Neither of them can be traded.

  25. raysfan1 - Oct 31, 2011 at 9:54 PM

    Tip o’ the cap to TLR. I’ll miss the groaning from certain fans about over-managing. A sure-fire HoF’er–no need to come back just to chase a number…gotta respect that.

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