And the rest, as they say, is history.
Torre went on to make 12 straight postseason appearances and win four World Series titles in the Bronx. La Russa went on to win the NL Central seven times, with a World Series ring to boot.
12 long years later, fate may bring La Russa and Torre together again.
Torre is soon to be without a job. La Russa needs to decide whether he wants to stay with the Cards.
I know I've said this before—but never in a million years should Torre be forced out in New York. Not many managers would have been able to get this year's one-dimensional Yankee team to the playoffs.
But if Torre does go, La Russa might be just the man for the job.
La Russa knows how to win with marginal talent. The 2006 Cardinals had no business making the playoffs—much less winning the World Series.
Still, La Russa got it done.
La Russa is known as an "in-your-face" manager who lets nothing get in the way of winning. Torre, on the other hand, is remarkable first and foremost for his reserve.
Another mark in La Russa's favor is his pitching coach, Dave Duncan. Duncan has a record of turning average pitchers—Chris Carpenter, Jason Isringhausen—into great ones.
Given the Yankees' pitching woes, there may be no higher priority in New York.
As it stands, I believe La Russa will leave St. Louis. The firing of GM Walt Jocketty only makes the departure more likely.
The latest word out of St. Louis is that the Cardinals brass have given La Russa a deadline for his decision. If they really think Joe Girardi could do better...good luck.
Torre, meanwhile, seems to set to retire to the peace of his vacation home. When the Yankees open the 2008 regular season, get ready to hear the news from Yankee PA man Bob Sheppard:
"Your New York Yankees' manager, Tony La Russa."
Who says history never repeats itself?