Tony La Russa was born on October 4, 1944 in Tampa, Florida. He attended Jefferson High School in Tampa. La Russa signed his first professional contract with the Kansas City Athletics in 1962, on the night that he graduated from high school. He also received a degree in industrial management from The University of South Florida in Tampa and a law degree from Florida State University.
During his professional baseball career, La Russa played as an infielder. He appeared in only 132 major league games over the course of six seasons. Some teams he played for include the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox, and Saint Louis Cardinals.
La Russa began managing in the minor leagues in 1978, and took over as manager for the Chicago White Sox two-thirds of the way through the 1979 season. He was named as the American League Manager of the Year in 1983, after his team won the American League West. However, the team lost to the Baltimore Orioles, ending their 1983 chase for the pennant. After a 26-38 record in 1986, the White Sox replaced La Russa, but he was quickly picked up by the Oakland Athletics.
La Russa led the Oakland A's to three consecutive World Series berths from 1988 through 1990. However, his luck turned, and the team had losing seasons from 1993 - 1995. The 1995 season ended 67-77, and the owners of the A's, the Haas family, decided to sell the team, after the death of the family patriarch, Walter A. Haas, Jr. La Russa was then fired by the new owners, and he was promptly hired by the Saint Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals won the Central Division title during La Russa's first season managing the team. He was named National League Manager of the Year. The Cardinals also won the Central Division title in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005. La Russa was again named National League Manager of the Year in 2002, and was the first manager to receive the honor four times. He is also only one of two who has been named Manager of the Year in both the National and American Leagues.
2002 proved to be an emotional year for La Russa, and all Cardinals fans. Not only did he lead his team to another Central Division title and win Manager of the Year, but the team lost two important people. The popular broadcaster and the "voice of the Cardinals", Jack Buck, died on June 18, 2002. Four days later, 33 year- old, right-handed pitcher Darryl Kile died from 90% blockage in two coronary arteries. The Cardinals fell to the San Francisco Giants during the National League Championship Series.
In 2004, the Cardinals won the National League Pennant. The team had the best record in the majors, 105-57. Sadly, they were swept by the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. This was the year that La Russa became the sixth manager in history to win a National and American League pennant.
La Russa is currently the 48th manager in the history of the Cardinals' baseball club. He is currently under contract through the 2007 season. Currently he is number three on the All-Time Managerial Wins list.
Tony La Russa makes his off-season home in Danville, California, where he lives with his wife, Elaine, and their two children Bianca Tai and Devon Kai. The family shares their home with four dogs, twelve cats, and one bunny. La Russa also is Founder and Chairman of Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, which is headquartered in Walnut Creek, California. He is also involved in the Cardinals community foundation, Cardinals Care. He teamed up with author Buzz Bissinger on a book titled, Three Nights in August, which was released in 2005.
La Russa, who has recently begun his eleventh season managing the Cardinals, and was induced into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. He is regarded by his peers as one of the top managers in baseball.
This article was written by Brianne Mueller