La Russa talks about his legacy, renewing ties with Canseco
Baseball’s third all-time winning manager visits Calgary for Italian Sportsman’s Dinner
Don’t ask Tony La Russa to pick a favourite.
“It’s like having sons and daughters,” says baseball’s third all-time winning manager of his three World Series offspring. “You don’t (choose). They’re all very special in a different way.
“The A’s in ’89 were just a great team. One of the best teams of all time. I had very little to do. I just told them who we were playing and what time the game started.
“And then the Cardinals, 2006 we didn’t win a lot of games, 83, but we were really hurt. When we got healthy we were a very good team. The last one (2010) was different because our starters were tired and you usually don’t win when you’ve got to use that much bullpen. So that was a more stressful World Championship.”
La Russa, his flight into Calgary delayed, just made it in time for the antipasto at Thursday’s annual Italian Sportsman’s Dinner at Thorncliff Community Association.
Not many people in sport, players, managers, you name it, go out on top. La Russa retired a world champion on Oct. 31, 2011, three days after his third Series title, second in the National League, with 2,278 wins to his name. Only Connie Mack and John McGraw have more.
“I feel very fortunate. And I don’t take any credit for that because I’d said that was my last year and we could’ve been at the bottom. But the way that it ended, the satisfaction, the excitement, it was like Fantasy Island. I was very, very lucky.”
The Game 6 of that Series, a 10-9 11-inning donnybrook that his Cards twice fought off last-out elimination and was ultimately decided by leadoff home run from David Freese in the bottom of the inning, remains etched in the minds of anyone who watched it, let along played in it.
“Forever,” La Russa replied, when asked how long he’d remember that game. “A couple of points. One is the game itself, so close to being over, twice, winning the game was a great thrill. But then realizing if we didn’t win the next night” — the Cards did, by a 6-2 count — “it’s not the same story. People ask how you felt . . . well, if you’d watched us during the playoffs, a couple of times against Philadelphia and once against Milwaukee, during the regular season, the last two or three weeks, we had a bunch of games that if we hadn’t rallied, we’d never have even gotten there.
“So we were so used to the pressure, and the guys were excited and they just had this belief. I knew that we weren’t going to quit.”
Among the best, and most controversial, of La Russa’s many star players was, of course, Jose Canseco, who went public with the steroid scandal — Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big — rocked the Majors.
“He was there in ’86, my first year. And I knew midsummer, June, that he was going to be rookie of the year. Jose’s very talented, very smart. He signed his deal, got a little carried away.
“Later in his career he really felt baseball was out to get him. About a month ago for the first time in years we talked on the phone. Life’s too short. I’m sure we’ll have a good relationship. We’re planning to see each other sometime this summer. We’ve all made mistakes. And I know he feels that some of the stuff he said about his teammates, he regrets now.
“But he’s right, it’s a black eye on baseball, the stuff we went through there. As far as Jose the person, I’m really pleased to re-establish contact with him.”
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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