Tony La Russa retired with the third-most wins as a Major League Baseball manager after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title.
La Russa, a three-time World Series champion who won his second with the Cardinals on Friday when the team beat the Texas Rangers in the decisive seventh game, made the announcement today at a news conference in St. Louis.
“It’s just time for something else, and I know it,” La Russa said in the announcement that was streamed on the team’s website. “You’ve got to look in the mirror. If I came back I’d come back for the wrong reasons, and I couldn’t do that.”
Following Terry Francona’s departure from the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 30, La Russa’s retirement leaves managerial openings at two of baseball’s marquee franchises. The Red Sox have won championships twice in the last decade and the Cardinals’ title was their 11th in team history.
The 67-year-old La Russa, who’s managed St. Louis for 16 seasons and won a World Series with the Oakland Athletics in 1989, stepped down while 35 wins away from tying John McGraw for second place in all-time victories. Connie Mack is the record holder with 3,731, while La Russa has a 2,728-2,365 record in 33 years with the Cardinals, Athletics and Chicago White Sox.
“I’m aware of the history of the game but I would not be happy with myself if the reason I came back was just to move up one spot,” La Russa said. “It’s not something that motivates me. Wherever you finish, you finish. The fact that John McGraw is a legendary figure, I kind of like it that he’s second.”
An infielder who played six major-league seasons from 1963 to 1973, La Russa won three Manager of the Year awards in the American League (1983, 1988, 1992) and one in the National League (2002).
The Cardinals were down to their last strike in Game 6 against the Rangers last week in both the ninth and 10th innings. They tied the game each time and the won it in the 11th to extend the series to a seventh game, where they won 6-2.
La Russa first disclosed his plan to step down to Cardinals’ management in August. He said his thinking never changed when it looked like the team wouldn’t make the playoffs and then when the club continued to advance to another World Series title.
St. Louis, which trailed the Atlanta Braves by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25, won 23 of its last 32 to qualify for the playoffs on the final day regular season.
“You proceed to go to popping the champagne four times and it never feels any different,” he said of his thinking. “So it’s just time.”
The Cardinals put together a search committee to find La Russa’s replacement, said John Mozeliak, the team’s general manager, adding that La Russa’s retirement was in his thoughts yesterday during the team’s championship parade.
“It was sort of hard for me to swallow but at the same token, I have to admire that he never wavered,” Mozeliak said. “Today is about Tony. Tomorrow is going to be about the next chapter for the St. Louis Cardinals.”
It’s a chapter that will be tough to duplicate for a franchise that has the most world championships in National League history. Only the Yankees, with 27 World Series titles, have more.
“Tony leaves behind a legacy of success that will always be remembered as one of the most successful eras in Cardinals history,” said team Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. “I knew this day would come. I just hoped that it wouldn’t.”
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