Tony La Russa Retires: The Legacy Ends for One of Baseball's Greatest Managers

Alex GiobbiAnalyst IOctober 31, 2011

Going out like a winner
Going out like a winnerEd Szczepanski/Getty Images

Like Scotty Bowman in Detroit, John Elway in Denver and many other sports figures, Tony La Russa has decided to hang it up after winning it all—in this case, the 2011 World Series.

La Russa, one could say, is one of the best managers in baseball.

In 33 years as a skipper, he has three rings to his credit: One from the 1989 World Series with the Athletics and the other two from 2006 and 2011 with the Cardinals.

If the Hall of Fame election policy were to suddenly change and La Russa were eligible on the next Veterans Committee ballot, he would potentially be the first unanimous selection for the Hall.

Basically, his stats show that he is certainly deserving.

La Russa became a manager after a brief career as a shortstop. His first major league job was with the Chicago White Sox in 1979.

As a manager in the South Side, he did nothing significant—except to try and move catcher Carlton Fisk to left field. That, and a dismal start to the 1986 season, prompted his firing.

Oakland hired him almost immediately afterward. The team that he inherited had much promise, with such prospects as Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco and veterans like Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley.

It took him two years before he brought the Athletics to the World Series, but his A's lost to the Dodgers—or more specifically, they had a meltdown after Eckersley gave up one of the most dramatic home runs in series history.

The next year, Oakland won the Earthquake Series, sweeping San Francisco in four games. The year after that, they lost to Cincinnati.

La Russa then made his way to St. Louis for the 1996 season and never left. He led the team to several first-place finishes and three World Series appearances, losing to Boston in 2004 and winning against Detroit and Texas in 2006 and 2011, respectively.

In his managerial career, La Russa collected four Manager of the Year awards, managed in the All Star Game five times, and became baseball's third-winningest manager. 

Losing La Russa to retirement was inevitable, but the thought of having a season without him in the dugout is going to be a harsh reality for Cardinals and general baseball fans alike.

For the Cardinals, it will be difficult to imagine somebody replacing the team's greatest manager. For fans, it will be tough to find a manager to despise like La Russa. 

Regardless, La Russa did the right thing in retiring. He will be known as one of the greatest—if not the greatest—managers of all time.