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La Russa decides it’s time to retire

By David Waldstein
New York Times / November 1, 2011

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In his last few days as Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa went about his business with an air of serenity, even as his upstart team sought to nail down a World Series championship. La Russa’s often grumpy demeanor with reporters dissolved into friendly, almost comedic banter, and he took a genuinely inquisitive tone at times, when in the past he could be dismissive.

Now there would seem to be an explanation for that sudden burst of relaxation for a manager more commonly thought of as relentless. Yesterday, three days after he captured his third title, and less than a day after St. Louis celebrated with a victory parade, La Russa, 67, announced that he was retiring.

So, it turns out, that amid all the World Series tension of the past week, La Russa had his own finish line firmly in view.

La Russa made his disclosure at a news conference in St. Louis. After 16 years as the manager of the Cardinals and 33 years overall on the job, La Russa is done marching relievers in and out of games and outthinking most of his counterparts. His next destination is surely the Hall of Fame.

“It’s just time to do something else,’’ he said.

With 2,728 victories, La Russa ends his career with the third most victories of any manager, behind Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763). He is only the ninth manager to win at least three World Series titles, and his resume also includes six league championships, three each with the Athletics and Cardinals.

La Russa began managing in 1979 with the White Sox, where he spent eight seasons before moving on to the A’s. He took Oakland to three World Series, winning it all in 1989. He moved to St. Louis in 1996 and 10 years later won his first championship for the Cardinals, taking a team that finished the regular season only two games over .500 to the top of the baseball world.

After an unremarkable major league career in which he batted .199 as a backup infielder for six seasons, La Russa earned a law degree from Florida State University in 1978 but never practiced. He said he would rather ride buses in the minor leagues than practice law. But he never spent much time in the minors, instead heading right for the manager’s spot, where he made himself a legend.

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