10/31 So long, Tony

Tony La Russa announced his retirement Monday, and Cubs-Cardinals series won’t be the same without him.

“Enough’s enough” La Russa said. “It’s time to do something different.”

Remember the La Russa-Dusty Baker fracas at Wrigley Field in September 2003? On Sept. 4, 2003, Baker, then the Cubs manager, and La Russa met for nearly six minutes behind the batting cage. In the end, they shook hands. They were trying to settle differences that had been on display the day before.

“We explained to each other about different things, different things that might have upset him, upset me, different things that might have hurt his feelings or different things that might have hurt mine,” Baker said at the time. “That’s baseball, and that’s how it goes sometimes.”

Tensions snapped in the third inning on Sept. 3 after Cubs pitcher Matt Clement was hit by a pitch and both benches were issued a warning. Cardinals pitcher Dan Haren had been hit by a pitch the inning before. The two managers shouted at each other from their respective dugouts, and La Russa promised after the game he wanted to talk to Baker before talking to the media.

So, after their session behind the cage, did they reach an accord?

“Relatively so,” Baker said.

Did they agree to disagree?

“He has an opinion and I have an opinion on things — what was right, what was wrong, what was enough,” Baker said of La Russa. “It’s a big series, and there’s a lot of emotions. I’m not proud of myself when I display that kind of action. I don’t really like that person when he comes out, and he rarely comes out unless he’s provoked to come out. When he comes out, then he’s got to stay out.”

The two managers did have an altercation in the 2002 playoffs when Baker, then the Giants manager, accused the Cardinals of throwing at Kenny Lofton.

“Me and Tony were teammates,” Baker said. “He was my last manager. He’s the guy who gave me my first advice when I started managing. There wasn’t any tension. Sometimes there’s tension between myself and my brother. I still love my brother.”

In the Sept. 2, 2003, game, Cardinals pitcher Matt Morris was knocked down three times.

“I took offense to the unwritten threat [by La Russa]. That’s what I took offense to,” Baker said. “If you’re going to do it, just do it.

“We’re just playing hardball,” Baker said. “Then, there’s the war of words with [Kerry Wood] being a head hunter, [Mark] Prior being a head hunger, ‘Dusty Baker better do something about it.’ I think each manager should take care of their own club. You take care of yours, I’ll take care of mine.”

* La Russa and Lou Piniella grew up in Tampa, Fla., and played against each other as kids. Piniella, who is one year older, did top his friend in the 1990 World Series when his “Nasty Boys” Reds swept La Russa’s A’s. The two were teammates in 1961 hen they traveled to California to play in the Colt League World Series.

During the 2006 Winter Meetings, after Piniella had taken over the Cubs, the two talked.

“Tony and I, we had a nice conversation ’til about 3 in the morning, and we vowed that we would remain friends, that we would leave our competition on the field, and that would be the end of it,” Piniella said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tony. I really do. And I think we are both at times in our careers where we realize that, hey, we are going to go out there and try to beat each other every day, but when it’s over, just leave it there, go back and compete the next day.”

Ah, memories.

— Carrie Muskat 

1 Comment

Hey Epstein, go talk Tony out of retirement and sign him up.

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