La Russa's Sox memories remain rich

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
6:09
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The end to his days as Chicago White Sox manager isn't something Tony La Russa will embrace, but the overall memories of his first managing job remain satisfying.

Using a style considered cutting edge when he took the White Sox job in 1979, the Tampa, Florida, native and fringe major leaguer wasn't everybody's cup of tea.

[+] EnlargeLaRussa
AP Photo/Mike GrollTony La Russa led the White Sox to the playoffs in 1983, the first postseason appearance for the team since 1959.
La Russa did it his way, and in 1983 his way delivered a 99-win season and the White Sox's first postseason berth since 1959. But by 1986 he was gone after short-lived general manager Ken "Hawk" Harrelson fired him.

With his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame about to go down Sunday, most White Sox fans in town to see the ceremony are focusing more on 1983 than 1986.

"I've heard it [all] along, but here in the last four or five months I'm getting a lot of comments," La Russa said of interaction with White Sox fans. "I think our fans, I run into them all the time. They remember '83. They enjoyed it. We all enjoyed it. It was something special."

The joy wouldn't last back then. Harrelson left the broadcast booth in 1985 to take over as GM and La Russa's days were as good as numbered.

"We had played pretty good in '85 so he was stuck with me," La Russa said. "I think if he had his own guys, I don't know that his ideas wouldn't work. I just know they didn't [that year]. We fought him. We tried to work 'em, but we had to fight 'em."

Harrelson and La Russa didn't talk again until they broke the ice in 1992. They have stayed good friends since.

Broadcaster Harry Caray was another La Russa critic, and unlike the feud he ended with Harrelson, that one never was repaired.

"Hell no," La Russa said. "The first [shot] he took was, 'Bill [Veeck] was too cheap to hire a real manager.' There's probably a lot of truth to that. Harry liked to pick on the lambs and I was a lamb."

He left the White Sox to manage the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, and that lamb turned into a wolf. In 33 seasons as a manager, La Russa won 2,728 games, the third-highest total all time behind Hall of Famers Connie Mack and John McGraw. La Russa ended up winning three World Series.

But it all started in Chicago.

"First Bill Veeck, the way he would ask questions and get you involved with the great scouts, that was like going to graduate school night school and work on weekends," La Russa said. "It was just work, work, work. Then here comes new owners Jerry [Reinsdorf] and Eddie [Einhorn]. They loved the game of baseball so it was a great atmosphere. Then you had Roland Hemond as the GM. How much better can it get than that?"

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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BA LEADER
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OTHER LEADERS
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RBIJ. Abreu 102
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