For 16 seasons Tony La Russa managed the St. Louis Cardinals. The longtime skipper often was seen before games in the outfield, a fungo bat in hand, chatting with Cardinals icon Red Schoendienst. During games La Russa stood near the dugout railing with his sunglasses on, contemplative and showing little emotion, never giving up, always thinking about his next move. "Playing a hard nine" was the La Russa style.
Regardless of whether you agreed with La Russa's managerial decisions, it's clear he played a major role in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals and baseball in general.
La Russa will be in town Thursday as part of the University Speakers Series at Southeast Missouri State University. The lecture, "Leading Successful Teams," begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Show Me Center.
The future Hall of Famer's success as a Major League manager is significant. He led the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series titles. He also compiled three American League championships and a World Series title while managing the Oakland Athletics.
With 70 postseason victories, La Russa trails only Joe Torre among the winningest postseason managers. He's also the second manager to win a World Series championship in both leagues. And La Russa finished his managerial career with 2,728 regular season wins, good enough for third place all time.
The championships are indeed one of the more impressive statistics of La Russa's career. For Cardinals fans the amazing 2011 World Series run stands out. But consider all the teams and players La Russa managed during his 33 seasons and it's clear he exhibited important leadership qualities, merging strategy with superstar talent.
Thursday's speech will be especially fun for fans as La Russa shares thoughts on his career and stories not regularly heard. Having earned a law degree, he's also expected to address the importance of studying facts as it relates to strategy.
In addition to his life in baseball, La Russa is an advocate for animal adoption. He and wife Elaine co-founded Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in 1991.
Tickets are $10 and are available at the Show Me Center box office, at www.showmecenter.biz and by calling 651-5000. Free tickets are available to Southeast students, faculty and staff with a valid university ID card and are available at the University Center, room 202.
We hope you will consider attending this speech. Maybe you were one who second guessed La Russa. Thursday may answer some questions. Regardless, this is a man of great achievement and his speech will be one to remember.