It was a fairy-tale ending for Tony La Russa, one that only a few lucky people get.
The St. Louis Cardinals manager announced his retirement on Monday morning, three days after leading his team to an improbable World Series title.
La Russa’s last duty as manager was to lead his victorious team on the celebratory parade through downtown St. Louis. It was the perfect way to end a historical managerial career. La Russa finishes with 2,728 victories, only behind John McGraw (2,763) and Connie Mack (3,731), in 33 seasons in the dugout. La Russa managed the Oakland A’s from 1986-95, winning three straight American League pennants from 1988-90 and sweeping Bay Area rival Giants in the 1989 World Series.
La Russa overcame a lot during the 2011 season. During Spring Training, he lost his ace, Adam Wainwright, to season-ending Tommy John surgery. In May, La Russa was diagnosed with a case of shingles, which left the entire right side of his face swollen. The ailment caused La Russa to miss a number of games while he received treatment.
On June 19th, Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols fractured his left wrist in a collision with a base runner at first base. The team traded talented center fielder Colby Rasmus for a middle-of-the-rotation starter and two situational releivers in the middle of the season and almost traded starting right fielder Lance Berkman to the Rangers, the team the Cardinals defeated in the World Series.
In mid-August, the team was 10 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the Wild Card race. No one thought they had a chance of making the playoffs, not even management.
But La Russa’s departure leaves the Cardinals with another huge question to answer in the coming days and weeks. Pujols is the most coveted free agent this offseason. Will La Russa’s absense impact Pujols decision to return or leave? You have to believe Pujols will weigh this news into his decision.
Tony La Russa may not be the only icon saying “goodbye” to St. Louis this offseason.