By the numbers: Cards honor their No. 10 -- Tony La Russa
Here’s a nugget about former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa whose No. 10 will be retired Friday at Busch Stadium with all the pomp befitting the winningest manager in franchise history: He started his career with the Redbirds in the hole.
La Russa, who would steer the team to 1,408 wins — and two world championships — during his 16 years as manager, was 0-1 after the team’s first regular season game in 1996. The Redbirds lost the season opener to the Mets 7-6 at New York’s Shea Stadium on that April Fool’s Day, despite fourth-inning homers by first baseman John Mabry and right fielder Willie McGee.
La Russa’s Redbirds would hover around first place for most of his first season, ending with a winning record of 88-74 and finishing on top of the National League Central. But they would lose the league title to the Atlanta Braves in the seventh game of the series: a 15-0 battering at Atlanta.
In 2011 — La Russa’s last season managing the Cards — Atlanta was once again in the picture. This time, La Russa’s Wild Cards made a mad dash from 10.5 games out at the end of August to snatch the postseason wild card berth away from the Braves. And this time, there would be a dramatic but jubilant ending for Cardinal Nation and for La Russa who closed out his managerial career on Oct. 28 — Game 7 of the World Series — with a 6-2 win over the Texas Rangers.
La Russa, who announced his resignation on Oct. 31 — the day after the World Series victory parade — has said that he won’t manage again and is working as a consultant to Major League Baseball. The Cardinals have wasted no time adding No. 10 to the stadium’s wall of retired numbers once worn by the team’s greats. La Russa’s will be the 12th number retired by the 130-year-old franchise. (Can you name all 12? Click here for the answer.)
Here are 10 interesting numbers about No. 10:
.199: La Russa’s career batting average as a player in the major leagues. He played shortstop and third base, debuting in 1963 with the Kansas City Athletics and spent parts of five other seasons playing for the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs.
2: La Russa won two World Series with the Cardinals (2006 and 2011). He is the second manager to win World Series in both the American and National leagues. (Sparky Anderson is the other). La Russa is also ranked second in total number of games managed: 5,097.
3: La Russa ranks third in total major league managerial wins (2,728), behind first-place Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763), both in the Baseball Hall of Fame. La Russa is expected to join them in Cooperstown when he becomes eligible in 2013.
4: Number of times La Russa was named major league “manager of the year.” He won three of the awards with the American League. His 2002 National League award followed a trying year for the Cardinals: Beloved Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck died on June 18. Four days later, pitcher Darryl Kile died of a heart attack in his Chicago hotel room while on a road trip to play the Cubs.
11: It may have been written in the stars that 2011 would be La Russa’s last with the Cards. After leading the Redbirds to their 11th World Series championship, the manager, who was known for his superstitions, might have had to trade in his No. 10 for a new number. Before his appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman” on Oct. 31 — the same day he announced his retirement — La Russa told KMOV about the special meaning of No. 10. He recalled the day he was introduced as manager in November 1995: “I stood up and said, ‘Look, the dream that I have is my number’s 10 I want to be part of the 10th world championship.’ ‘’
33: Number of seasons La Russa managed in the major leagues: He was named manager of the White Sox during the 1979 season and guided Chicago to an American League West division title in 1983. After the Sox fired him in 1986, La Russa was hired to manage the Oakland Athletics. He led the A’s to three American League championships and the 1989 World Series title. He left Oakland after the 1995 season and joined the Cardinals in 1996.
67: La Russa’s age when he retired. He was born in Tampa, Fla., on Oct. 4, 1944, where he played on an American Legion baseball team with a talented bunch, including former major league manager Lou Piniella and catcher Ken Suarez. According to the Tampa Bay Times, La Russa signed with the then Kansas City Athletics on the night of his graduation from Jefferson High School in 1962. He got a $100,000 bonus, a pledge to pay for college and a white Bonneville with black leather seats.
$180: going price of a baseball autographed by La Russa to benefit his Animal Rescue Foundation. La Russa, who is well known for his love of animals, founded the organization in 1991, with his wife Elaine. As the story goes, La Russa rescued a stray cat that had wandered onto the playing field during a May 1990 game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. La Russa coaxed the scared kitty into the dugout. When he discovered there were no No-Kill facilities in the East Bay region of the San Francisco area, he and Elaine founded ARF.
1978: The year La Russa completed his law degree at Florida State University. Other Cardinals managers who were lawyers: Miller Huggins (1913-1917) and Branch Rickey (St. Louis Browns, 1913-15, Cardinals, 1919-25). La Russa holds another doctorate: In 2007, the University of Missouri-St. Louis awarded him an honorary doctorate.
July 10: La Russa will don the Birds on the Bat uniform for the last time when he manages the National League team in the 2012 All-Star game.