Cardinals’ La Russa: ‘Just Take Your Best Shot’

Saturday, 06 Oct 2012 09:18 PM

By Todd Beamon and

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The St. Louis Cardinals won the 2011 World Series because “we were going to treat every game like it was the last game of our lives,” retired manager Tony La Russa tells Newsmax TV.

“The guys never gave in and finally, as we made that push, we were going to treat every game like it’s the last game of our lives,” La Russa, who earned his second World Series title with the Cardinals, tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview. “That gets the adrenaline pumping and that urgency that you look for. Brings out the best in you.”

Story continues below video.

The Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers in a decisive seventh game to win the 2011 World Series. During the season, St. Louis had trailed the Atlanta Braves by 10 and a half games on Aug. 25, 2011. The team won 23 of its last 32 games to qualify for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.

La Russa, 67, retired last October not long after the Cardinals won the World Series. He had managed St. Louis for 16 years and won a World Series with the Oakland Athletics in 1989. He finished major League Baseball with the third-most wins as a manager — a 2,728-2,365 record in 33 years with the Cardinals, Athletics and Chicago White Sox.

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).

La Russa has a new book on the Cardinals’ winning season, “One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season.”

“At the end of the season, the World Series Championship, there was a lot of fascination with how we had come back from 10 and a half back — and then we won as an underdog. The more I looked at it, there’s a lot of compelling stuff about our team,” La Russa said. “It’s really an opportunity to tell a story about how compelling and gritty this team that pulled off is. A lot of the ways that are beneficial in whatever walk of life you’re in.”

Looking back over his years as a team manager, La Russa said that he has had to really “push my coaching frame of mind.”

“You’re trying to establish the chemistry that teams have where they respect and trust each other — and you really work at that day in and day out. And after you feel like you’ve got the team together, then you start talking about playing the game.

“That’s probably the most important responsibility, and the book points that out in a lot of places. the way you carry that out as a staff, and not just the manager, is that you personalize your style of leadership and try to establish a relationship with each and every player; each player to their teammate, to themselves.

“In the end, it’s personal, where we don’t just stand in front of the room and lead by memo or something,” La Russa said. “It’s interacting and establishing a good register.”

He remains thankful for being able to end his baseball career on top.

“It feels good to finish on top, but as long as there isn’t any special credit, because we could’ve finished last — and your last year’s your last year,” La Russa said. “As we got into it, especially the comeback, I started getting more excited, more satisfied that at least it wasn’t going to end up badly. But every time we qualified for the playoffs and won the division series or the league championship series, I kept thinking this is luck.

“Bottom line is when you’ve had enough, you just play it to the end — but we all personalize ourselves, so the fact that it was my last year, you just take your best shot. There’s no other shot to take.”

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