New book: How much did dealing with ‘media nonsense’ impact La Russa decision to retire?

I covered Tony La Russa during what had to be the low point in his career. In 1986, I took over as the White Sox beat writer for the Chicago Tribune.

That was the year Ken Harrelson assumed the role of general manager. Let’s just say it was a bad marriage. It resulted with La Russa being fired in June of that year.

Given what La Russa went on to accomplish in Oakland and St. Louis, there’s little question why Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf called it the one decision he regrets the most.

I had a good relationship with La Russa during that season with the Sox and several years thereafter when he was in Oakland. I always found him to be fair, interesting and accomodating. I do recall I have never seen a coach or manager suffer more after a defeat.

Yet through the years, I have heard some writers complain about dealing with La Russa. It appears the feeling was mutual.

In his new book, Tony La Russa: One Last Strike, has a couple of interesting passages about his relationship with the media. Co-written with Rick Hummel, the Hall of Fame baseball writer with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he says the media element of his job wore him down. It was a factor in his decision to retire after winning the title in 2011.

Here’s La Russa:


The media evolved over the years to the point where second-guessing and a lot else besides recapping the games took over. I want to make it clear that I understand that media people have to make a living and that, like me and our players, they have to survive in a highly competitive environment. Still, just because I understand all that doesn’t mean that I enjoyed it. It was more like I tolerated it as part of the dues you pay to stay in the game.

One consequence of media proliferation was it seemed as if some members of the media were trying so hard to make a name for themselves that they began to compete with the very players they were interviewing for the attention of the public. Toward the end of my career, these competitive individuals were becoming more the rule than the exception, and as in most competitions, hostilities were a natural result. Being stuck in the middle between the players and the media when this occurred was a taxing and irritating part of my job.

Having to manage the media, though not my full-time job, took up a considerable amount of time and energy and also took some of the enjoyment out of managing.


(Later he wrote)

Now, I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush here, because looking back at the span of my career, I have known plenty of appreciative and respectful players, as well as media members who were responsible and loved the game. Call it the squeaky wheel syndrome, the bad apple or whatever; but human nature being what it is, you tend to remember the really good and the really bad, and the big middle becomes kind of blank….

When I added in all the rest–the media nonsense especially–I thought that if I wasn’t getting the same enjoyment even under the best of circumstances with this team, then it really was time to get out at the end of the year.


“Media nonsense”? Yeah, don’t think La Russa misses dealing with the media.




Remembering Jack Buck in St. Louis 10 years after his death

Just caught up with this story by Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the 10-year anniversary of the death of Jack Buck.

Not that anyone needed to be reminded, but Caesar does a nice job of reporting just how much the legendary broadcaster meant to the baseball-crazy town.

From Bob Costas:

“It’s hard to imagine a St. Louisan — Stan Musial might be someone who would  be in that category — whose life and whose passing would have as much an impact  on such a wide swath of the community,” recalls Bob Costas, who has become  perhaps America’s top sportscaster after having his start at KMOX in 1974 when  Buck was its sports director. “Just about everybody felt in some sense they knew  Jack Buck. Even people who weren’t avid baseball fans had some memories or  experiences surrounding the Cardinals. But also in truth a huge number of St.  Louisans actually did over the years have some personal encounter with Jack  Buck.

“He was a  fixture in the community for so long, and he did so many charity things, that a  huge percentage of St. Louisans are probably able to say, ‘Yeah, when I was in  high school he spoke to my class,’ or ‘I ran this charity auction and he did  this for us’ or ‘He came to this event,’ or ‘My father used to play cards with  him,’ or ‘I ran into him at the racetrack,’ or ‘I saw him at Al Baker’s  (restaurant).’ Wherever it was, he was a famous St. Louisan but he also was  person people actually felt like they knew.’’

Caesar writes about how entertainer Tony Orlando, a friend of Buck’s, went to great lengths to attend the funeral.

One was entertainer Tony Orlando, who knew Buck for many years and admired  him greatly. Orlando went to extraordinary lengths to be on hand. He had a  performance the night before in Las Vegas, then quickly headed to the airport to  fly to Los Angeles to connect to a red-eye flight to St. Louis. He attended the  service, then went straight to the airport to return to Vegas in time to be on  stage that night.

It made for a very long 24-hours.

“I just felt the need to be there,” Orlando recalls. “It was a worthy trip.  … I was tired, but mostly what tired me out was that it was draining to see  the hurt in everybody. … There was a solemnness, it was an amazing reaction  from a city. I know this may be a stretch for some people, but not for people in  St. Louis: It reminded me of when (President) John F. Kennedy died, the  tremendous weight that was on the common person on the street. Everybody was  feeling his loss. I could tell the people were hit hard by his passing. It was a  sad day, but an interesting lovefest of a funeral.

“It was a privilege to know him, it was an honor to be there at his funeral,”  Orlando says. “It’s a privilege to know his wife and son Joe, whom I adore.”

From his son, Joe:

“It was unbelievable,” says Joe Buck, the Fox network’s lead baseball and  football announcer. “To this day I’m still grateful to all those people who  called in to KMOX and shared stories about him, things that he had done that we  as a family didn’t even know about. I think that’s what made him so special, he  did so many things because they were right, so many things he did because they  felt good. He wasn’t the kind of guy to come home and say, ‘Hey guess what I did  today?’ He just did it, it gave him satisfaction and he knew it was something  that uplifted somebody else. That was good enough for him, he didn’t need to be  patted on the back.”

Do yourself a favor and read the entire piece.