In a wide-ranging press interview during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Sunday, Tony La Russa was most humble in his evaluation of his career accomplishments in the context of his selection to join the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
One notable item he discussed is of intrigue for any upcoming Hall inductee who had success with multiple clubs – the insignia on the cap on his permanent plaque displayed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
While that decision rests with the Hall, the criteria are not totally clear. The logo is selected "based on where that player makes his most indelible mark.” La Russa acknowledged he has discussed the matter with them. His opinion is not binding, but one would have to believe the Hall will do its best to take his wishes into account.
La Russa’s point of view might initially be surprising to Cardinals fans that focus on his two World Championships with the club, but those who fully appreciate all three phases of his three decade-long Major League success may more easily accept it.
“My understanding is that sometime soon, they are going to announce their decision,” La Russa said. “The only input that I had was that I do not want to disrespect – if at all possible – Chicago or Oakland.”
That announcement is scheduled for Thursday, with the Class of 2014 - which includes Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas along with La Russa - to be inducted on July 27.
Though his St. Louis clubs took two of his three World Championships, Cardinals fans should not feel slighted.
“I had 16 great years here (in St. Louis) – mostly great,” La Russa explained. “The memories are incredible. But Chicago was very special. Oakland was … (he interrupted himself)
"That was the only thing I said. I hope there is a way to not disrespect those two places,” the new Hall of Famer re-emphasized.
La Russa remains very close personal friends with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Reinsdorf has repeated many times over the years that his greatest regret as a professional sports team owner was to allow then-Sox general manager Ken “Hawk” Harrelson to fire La Russa as Chicago’s skipper in 1986.
With the A’s, La Russa’s managerial career really took off. His Oakland clubs collected three American League pennants, and the 1989 World Series. He and his family still live in the area, where his charity endeavor, Animal Rescue Foundation, is also located.
While La Russa’s opinion might initially seem to be quite generic, in fact, it is very specific. Putting any team’s logo on his cap would create the appearance that one team meant more to him than the others. From a manager who famously has always resisted naming “bests of” – instead saying many were "tied for first" – this reaction seems completely in character.
In other words, Cardinals fans should not expect to see the familiar “StL” logo on La Russa’s Cooperstown plaque – at least if his opinion is taken into account.
It would not be an unusual outcome. At least 70 plaques have caps with no logos, though most are from the time before team insignia were commonly used. A handful of players from the modern era such as Catfish Hunter and Yogi Berra are also among them. Half that many again are not wearing caps at all, though most of them are executives.
Thursday afternoon, 1:00 P.M. CT: The Hall announced that indeed, La Russa's plaque cap will have no logo.
Additional La Russa article at The Cardinal Nation blog:
"TLR’s best fit may be a dual-president alignment".
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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