Old-school and new-school baseball collided Thursday as Hall of Famer Tony La Russa was named the White Sox’s new manager.
La Russa, 76, managed the White Sox from 1979-’86 before he was unceremoniously fired by then-general manager Ken “Hawk” Harrelson. La Russa has maintained a close relationship with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who upon reflection has long viewed La Russa’s firing as a mistake.
“As everyone in baseball is well aware, I have always respected Tony and am proud to have maintained a great friendship with him over the decades in the game,” Reinsdorf said in a statement. “But his hiring is not based on friendship or on what happened years ago but on the fact that we have the opportunity to have one of the greatest managers in the game’s history in our dugout at a time when we believe our team is poised for great accomplishments.”
La Russa replaces Rick Renteria, whom the White Sox fired on Oct. 12 after he led them for four seasons. He takes over a White Sox team that had a breakout 2020 season, going 35-25 before losing to the Athletics in the wild-card round.
“We are extremely excited about the future of this team,” general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. “As we showed in 2020, this is a young, talented club that we expect to only grow better and better in the coming years. Adding in a Hall of Fame manager who is recognized as being one of the best in the history of the game, we are a step closer to our goal of bringing White Sox fans another championship.”
La Russa has 2,728 career wins, the third-most among managers in MLB history. He was 522-510 with the White Sox, which marks the fourth-most wins by a manager in franchise history. The White Sox’s best season in La Russa’s first stint was 1983, when they went 99-63 and won the American League West.
After the White Sox fired Harrelson in 1986, he landed with the Athletics just weeks later. He managed them through 1995, including leading them to the World Series title in 1989. La Russa then managed the Cardinals from 1996-2011. He led them to championships in 2006 and 2011, retiring after the latter title.
After leaving the Cardinals, La Russa didn’t stay out of the game for long. He took a role in the league office, then was the Diamondbacks’ chief baseball officer from 2014 to 2017. In recent years, La Russa has worked for the Red Sox and then the Angels in an advisory role.
“While I have had other inquiries about managing since retiring, this opportunity with the White Sox brings together a number of important factors that make this the right time and the right place,” La Russa said in a statement. “The on-field talent is amazing and the front office, led by Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn, has done everything necessary to create an atmosphere of long-term success. All of those factors aligned to make this a tremendous opportunity, and I am excited to get going as soon as possible by building a coaching staff and getting to work.”
La Russa was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.