Tony La Russa has made a name for himself in the game of baseball as a player, a manager, and an executive. He’s been a part of minor league teams…and World Series teams. But his success has never led to complacency.
Even the “accessories” he wears will attest to that fact.
La Russa was born in Florida in the 40s and is one of only a handful of MLB players to have earned a Juris Doctor of Law which he completed at Florida State University in 1978. By that time, however, he’d already played in the minors and majors for fifteen years. Settling on a career far from the bench (in more ways than one), La Russa continued to pursue his love of the game and in 1979, he was invited into his first managerial role with the Chicago White Sox.
In 1986, he was fired from the Sox after a slow start that season, but picked up by the Oakland Athletics just three weeks later. In his role as manager, he led the team to the World Series in 1988, 1989, and 1990, winning the 89 Series over the San Francisco Giants. Later, he joined the staff of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996 and took the birds to the World Series in 2004, 2006, and 2011, winning the latter two, bringing his personal championship count to a total of three.
Not long afterwards, he was interviewed by Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who made the famous Hudson River landing in 2009. Sullenberger was writing a book about leaders who’d made a difference in their field, and consequently the world, and thought La Russa should be included. On the final page of the chapter dealing with one of major league baseball’s biggest figures, Sully noted the manager’s rings.
As I was leaving, I noticed the oversize rings he wore on each hand. They were as large as walnuts and I assumed they were World Series championship rings, but when I asked if that was the case Tony shook his head. “No, these aren’t the World Series rings,” he said. “I’ve got those at home. These are the pennant rings from Oakland in 1988 and St. Louis in 2004, the years we lost in the Series. They remind me to take nothing, nothing in this life, for granted.”
Most people would flaunt the evidence of their past victories. Instead, La Russa wore symbols of his defeat reminding him to press on toward what was next.
Which do you do?
Make a Difference by Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. William Morrow, 2012, Page 197.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)