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Tony! Toni! Toné!

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La Russa returns to the South Side, a Golden Girls joke wrapped in a controversy inside of a culture clash

Sports Contributor Archive 2019
New Kids on the Block: La Russa would consider rehiring his 1981 coaching staff — but only two of his assistants are still alive.
Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

We’ll have oodles of opinion and analysis to come, but here’s the White Sox press release for the absolute goofiest managerial hire in franchise history — and yes, I am aware that the South Siders once voluntarily hired and re-upped Terry Bevington.

CHICAGO – Tony La Russa, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, the third-winningest manager in baseball history, a three-time World Series champion and a four-time winner of the Manager of the Year Award, has been named the new manager of the Chicago White Sox, the team announced today. He has agreed to terms on a multiyear contract.

During 33 seasons as a major league manager with the White Sox (1979-86), Oakland Athletics (1986-95) and St. Louis Cardinals (1996-2011), La Russa’s teams have made 14 postseason appearances, won 12 division titles, took six pennants and claimed three World Series championships (1989 with Oakland; 2006 and 2011 with St. Louis). La Russa, who retired as a manager following a World Series championship with the Cardinals in 2011, served as a baseball executive with Major League Baseball (2012-13), the Arizona Diamondbacks (2014-17), the Boston Red Sox (2017-19) and the Los Angeles Angels (2019-20) before re-joining the White Sox.

“We are extremely excited about the future of this team,” said Rick Hahn, White Sox general manager/senior vice president. “As we showed in 2020, this is a young, talented club that we expect to only grow better and better in the coming years. Adding in a Hall of Fame manager who is recognized as being one of the best in the history of the game, we are a step closer to our goal of bringing White Sox fans another championship.”

La Russa is only the second manager, joining Sparky Anderson, to win World Series titles with teams in both leagues. La Russa and Connie Mack are the only two managers to win World Series titles in three different decades and to win pennants over four decades. La Russa, who was named Manager of the Year in 1983, 1988, 1992 and 2002, is one of only four managers to receive the honor in each league.

“While I have had other inquiries about managing since retiring, this opportunity with the White Sox brings together a number of important factors that make this the right time and the right place,” La Russa said. “The on-field talent is amazing, and the front office, led by Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn, has done everything necessary to create an atmosphere of long-term success. All of those factors aligned to make this a tremendous opportunity, and I am excited to get going as soon as possible by building a coaching staff and getting to work.”

“As everyone in baseball is well aware, I have always respected Tony and am proud to have maintained a great friendship with him over the decades in the game,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, White Sox chairman. “But his hiring is not based on friendship or on what happened years ago, but on the fact that we have the opportunity to have one of the greatest managers in the game’s history in our dugout at a time when we believe our team is poised for great accomplishments.”

La Russa is 2,728-2,365 (.536) in 5,097 games as a manager and owns a 70-58 (.547) record in postseason. His 2,728 career wins rank third all-time in baseball history, trailing only Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763). His teams have won 100 or more games four times, topped by 105 victories with the 2004 NL-pennant winning Cardinals.

La Russa’s 1983 White Sox won 99 games and an American League West title, the franchise’s first championship since 1959. He finished his first tenure with the White Sox with a 522-510 (.506) record and currently ranks fourth in franchise history in games managed (1,035) and victories (522). Following his playing career, La Russa coached and managed in the White Sox farm system from 1978-79, where he credits Loren Babe and Paul Richards as early mentors. At age 34, he became the youngest manager in baseball when named to the White Sox position on Aug. 2, 1979.

La Russa, who replaces Rick Renteria (2017-2020) as manager, becomes just the third person to manage the White Sox twice, joining Nixey Callahan (1903-04, 1912-14) and Richards (1951-54, 1976).

An infielder as a player, La Russa appeared in 132 major league games over six seasons with the Kansas City Athletics (1963), Oakland Athletics (1968-71), Atlanta Braves (1971) and Chicago Cubs (1973), batting .199 with seven RBIs. He retired as a player in 1977. La Russa graduated from South Florida in 1969 and earned his Juris Doctor degree from the Florida State College of Law in 1978.

La Russa and his wife, Elaine, co-founded the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), which saves abandoned and injured animals, as well as running programs to unite dogs and cats with abused children, hospital patients, seniors, shut-ins and others in need of animal companionship.

I know some of you are saying, hey Brett, welcome back, thanks for this breaking news you jagbag.

And then, you’re saying, hey Brett, you’re an old goat, how old were you when Tony La Russa was first hired as White Sox manager? Well, I was 10. TEN. Ten! (Or, said another way, I could have been one of those kids clowning behind the coaching staff in the lead art above.)


Either to anticipate the uproar, or ... complete the victory lap (?!?), the White Sox also issued this press release of La Russa endorsements from around baseball:


And in another interesting wrinkle, SSS Twitter follower @GabeNotDave saw this glitch in one of the White Sox’s email announcement of the La Russa hiring:


We will be updating this story and/or adding new stories to the La Russa hire in the days to come.

Poll

So, it’s Tony La Russa. Whaddya think?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Awesome!
    (106 votes)
  • 35%
    Waiting for the punch line.
    (265 votes)
  • 18%
    Considering migration to the Brewers.
    (135 votes)
  • 13%
    Only OK if Hawk becomes his hitting coach.
    (102 votes)
  • 18%
    So wait, what’s the Golden Girls joke?
    (141 votes)
749 votes total Vote Now