Tony LaRussa Retires a Master of His Game: Fan Appreciation

The St. Louis Cardinals are shopping for a new manager , just days after being victorious in a thrilling seven-game World Series. Manager Tony LaRussa has decided to call it a career after 33 seasons. He told a press conference early Oct. 31 it was time to retire .

Tony LaRussa.
SD Dirk, Wikimedia Commons

LaRussa goes out as the third-winningest manager in MLB history after 33 seasons. He is a lock for the National Baseball Hall of Fame as all of the inactive managers in the top 10 are enshrined. LaRussa said he told upper management in mid-August.

It was the most closely-guarded secret in the organization until mere minutes after the team's parade and rally Oct. 30. That was when LaRussa told his players, and reportedly there weren't many dry eyes in the room.

LaRussa told a press conference he wasn't managing anywhere else and wasn't coming back.

The 2011 season was quite a send-off for the Cardinals' skipper . The team pulled together an improbable run to World Series after being 10 ½ games behind the Atlanta Braves Aug. 25. The team then rallied to win a final Fall Classic for LaRussa.

Cardinals fans such as myself struggled to like LaRussa at times. Arm chair fans who knew the fundamentals of baseball sometimes yelled at their televisions when he would make seemingly strange decisions. The bullpen gaffe in Game 5 of the 2011 World Series was one such instance.

Yet no one can doubt LaRussa's effect on the game of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals.

He brought three National League Championships to the city and two World Series victories between 2006 and 2011. His final managerial record is 2,728-2,365 (.536). He managed 5,097 games overall, second all-time. Only Connie Mack and John McGraw have more victories in the history of Major League Baseball.

For LaRussa to hang it up after a World Series is even sweeter in my mind. If anyone deserves to retire at the pinnacle, it was this year for the Cardinals' skipper. He had to deal with a season-ending injury to ace Adam Wainwright(notes). Other key members of the team battled injuries including Albert Pujols(notes), Allen Craig(notes), and even World Series MVP David Freese(notes). The Los Angeles Times reports Freese had surgery on his ankles last winter.

Then there was the Colby Rasmus(notes) trade in late July that seemed to signal the Cardinals were going to try to win it all in 2011. Boy did they ever.

With everything LaRussa had to deal with in 2011, he deserves to retire this way. Any other manager would have packed it up in mid-August after the trades seemingly didn't go well. Instead, LaRussa found a way back to a title which is the mark of a hall of fame manager.

Very few people get to retire on top of their game. LaRussa should be one of them, for everything he has done for baseball-crazed St. Louis. His storybook retirement is just one more reason why St. Louis is a baseball town.

Even in his retirement, LaRussa made one mistake. On his way out of the press conference, he had this to say.

"It's a quarter to 10, today starts replacing Tony," LaRussa said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch .

No one can replace LaRussa. Upper management can only find a successor to one of the greatest managers in modern baseball.

Thank you, Tony, for everything you've done for the Gateway City. You deserve every accolade Major League Baseball bestows upon you. Five years from now, I have no doubt you will be voted into the hall of fame.

Congratulations on a great career. You will be missed.

William Browning was born in St. Louis and is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan. He currently resides in Branson, Mo.

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Updated Monday, Oct 31, 2011