Tony La Russa, 76, named new Chicago White Sox manager

PHOENIX — The Chicago White Sox, who never seriously considered anyone else, and spent the past three weeks convincing him to come out of retirement, on Thursday named Hall of Famer and three-time World Series champion Tony La Russa as their new manager. 

La Russa, 76, last managed in 2011, and has declined several managerial opportunities since but could not resist the White Sox when they reached out earlier this month.

There was speculation in Chicago that former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch was the preferred candidate after his suspension was lifted following the World Series, but a high-ranking White Sox official told USA TODAY Sports he was never interviewed.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the hiring process.

The only question was whether La Russa, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, was interested to returning to the daily grind of managing.

Simply, the opportunity to come full circle, help White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf win another World Series title, while inheriting a championship-caliber ballclub, was too great for La Russa to pass up.

The hiring of La Russa will be criticized given his age (he'll be the oldest manager in baseball), time away from managing and the general shift toward younger, data-savvy managers. But those who have worked alongside him the past nine years in other baseball roles say his acumen hasn't faded.

“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.

Tony La Russa, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, the third-winningest manager in baseball history, a three-time World Series champion and a four-time winner of the Manager of the Year Award, has been named the new manager of the Chicago White Sox. pic.twitter.com/RKP24rleHP

The White Sox were the team that provided La Russa with his first managerial job in 1979, and fired in 1986 by GM Ken “Hawk’’ Harrelson, with Reinsdorf later calling it the worst decision the White Sox ever made.

For firing La Russa?

“No, for hiring Hawk,’’ Reinsdorf would say, laughing, “because he’s the guy who fired Tony.’’

Reinsdorf, 84, and La Russa remained best of friends over the years, and when La Russa decided to retire late in the 2011 season, he had kept his decision a secret, letting few people in on his plans.

Well, on the night of Oct. 28, 2011 when La Russa's St. Louis Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers to win Game 7 of the World Series, guess who was on the field soaking in the scene, celebrating La Russa’s glory.

Yep, Reinsdorf.

When the White Sox decided to fire Rick Renteria after making several bullpen blunders down the stretch, costing them the AL Central title and a first-round loss to the Oakland A’s, the White Sox immediately reached out to the Los Angeles Angels to gain formal permission to speak to La Russa, who was a senior advisor of baseball operations.

They made it clear to La Russa that it was his job if he wanted it, and it took several weeks for him to decide whether he was ready to jump back into the rigorous managerial lifestyle.

Besides, there is a legacy to protect.

La Russa has won the third-most games in history with 2,728, trailing only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763). The older managers in baseball history are Mack, 87, and Jack McKeon, 80.

This is the only job that would lure him out of retirement simply to help realize Reinsdorf’s dream of winning at least one more time.

Besides, to be honest, La Russa has been bored. He worked two years in the MLB office helping Joe Torre in on-field discipline. He was hired in May, 2014 with the Arizona Diamondbacks where he was the chief baseball baseball officer for three years. He spent three years as vice president of the Boston Red Sox, and the past year with the Angels.

Yet, he badly missed the competition on the playing field, and told friends in recent weeks that he feels rejuvenated.

"This hiring is not based on friendship or on what happened years ago," Reinsdorf said in a statement, "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 plans to keep the bulk of the current White Sox current coaching staff, although he is exploring the possibility of bringing on Hall of Famer Harold Baines. Baines, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019, was on the White Sox coaching staff in 2004-2015.

La Russa also spoke to his long-time pitching coach Dave Duncan, 75, but Duncan plans to remain retired. The White Sox are expected to promote a pitching coach within the organization to replace Don Cooper, who was fired alongside Renteria.

Will it work? Will the dream come to fruition with Reinsdorf and La Russa riding off the sunset together?

Time will tell, but certainly, this will be worth watching.

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