Saturday, October 5, 2013

Back on Topps' Radar: Tony LaRussa

Wow, I haven’t had a “Back on Topps’ Radar” post since 9/24/2011!

Tony LaRussa (#571) returns to a Topps set for the first time since his (full) rookie card in the 1964 set. He was a utility infielder for the Oakland Athletics in the late 1960s/early 1970s, but (obviously) had a much more successful career as a manager.

LaRussa was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1962, and played in their minor-league system every season from 1962 to 1971 (except for 1963, when he inexplicably spent the entire season with the big club, although only playing in 34 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter).

Tony played a few games with Oakland in 1968 and 1969, but got the most big-league playing time in 1970, when he appeared in 52 games, including 28 starts at 2nd base while filling in for Dick Green. He was up and down in 1971, then in mid-August, the A’s sold him to the Braves, where he finished out the season in the majors.

After 1971, LaRussa played only in the minors (save for 1 game with the Cubs in April 1973), as he bounced around with the Braves, Cubs, Pirates, White Sox, and Cardinals, retiring after the 1977 season.

(Rumor has it that velcro was invented after the president of 3-M saw this baseball card!)

Tony earned a law degree immediately after his playing career was over, and also joined the White Sox as a minor-league manager. He assumed the Sox’ managerial position in 1979 when Don Kessinger was fired after 108 games. The White Sox won the AL West in 1983, but lost to the Orioles. LaRussa continued as manager until he was fired in mid-1986.

A few weeks later, he was hired by the Athletics, and managed them through the 1995 season. From 1988 to 1991 he won 3 AL pennants and the 1989 World Series.

His longest tenure as manager was with the Cardinals (1996-2011). The Cards won the NL pennant in 2004, and the World Series in 2006 and 2011, after which, LaRussa retired from managing.

LaRussa finished with 2,728 wins as a manager, behind only old-timers Connie Mack and John McGraw.

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