La Russa retires as Cardinals manager

2011-10-31T15:05:00Z 2011-11-02T08:35:33Z La Russa retires as Cardinals managerBY DERRICK GOOLD
October 31, 2011 3:05 pm  • 

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals announced this morning that manager Tony La Russa has retired after 33 seasons in a major-league dugout, the last 16 seasons of which was spent with the Cardinals.

"Tony leaves behind a legacy of success that will always be remembered as one of the most successful eras in Cardinals history," chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said at the announcement.

"I knew this day would come. I just hoped that it wouldn't."

La Russa said he told owner Bill DeWitt and the players Sunday evening of his decision. He said he actually made his decision to retire in August, and informed general manager John Mozeliak at the time.

"There isn't one (factor) that dominates (my decision)," La Russa said at the news conference. "They all just come together telling you your time is over.

"We went through the season and I felt that this just feels like it's time to end it and I think it's going to be great for the Cardinals to refresh what's going on here.

"I'm looking forward to what's ahead. I'm ready to do something different."

His announcement today came just three days after the Cardinals won the World Series and less than 24 hours after the parade and victory celebration downtown.

La Russa also said that while he decided in August, and the team was 10 1/2 games out of the wild card toward month's end, that was just a coincidence.

"That's a good connection to make because of the coincidence, but it's inaccurate," he said.

As he left the press conference Monday at Busch Stadium to catch a flight for New York, La Russa pointed to his watch.

"It's a quarter to 10, today starts replacing Tony," he said, then turned to Mozeliak. "Get to work."

Asked if he'll ever manage again, La Russa answered, "No."

For about the last three years, Mozeliak has kept a list of manager candidates written on a sheet of paper that he keeps in his desk. He updates it. He crosses names out. And now, for the first time, he's going to use it.

Mozeliak said ideally the club would have a new manager in place by the general manager meetings that take place in two weeks. He acknowledged that Thanksgiving may be a more realistic target.

Mozeliak said that experience as a major-league manager is not a prerequisite for consideration. It is something that the Cardinals would obviously weigh in the candidates' favor.

"I wouldn't rule anything out," Mozeliak said.

DeWitt said there would be consideration given an internal candidate. Third base coach Jose Oquendo has expressed interest in managing.

Where La Russa's retirement leaves his coaching staff may be the biggest question. Pitching coach Dave Duncan has one year remaining on his contract. The remainder of the coaches, including hitting coach Mark McGwire, had a contract through the end of the 2011 season.

Mozeliak said whoever the new manager is deserves "some autonomy when it comes to putting his staff together."

The timing of the announcement is reminiscent of 2000, when coach Dick Vermeil announced his retirement the day after the parade to honor the Super Bowl champion Rams.

La Russa, 67, led the Cardinals to three World Series and two championships, and the team played in the postseason nine times under his leadership, including his first season in St. Louis in 1996. He also won a World Series as manager of the Oakland A's in 1989.

He retires as the third winningest manager in Major League Baseball history behind only John McGraw (2,763) and the all-time leader Connie Mack (3,731). La Russa acknowledged that he had some friends pushing for him to return and get the 36 victories needed to surpass McGraw and become the winningest manager who didn't have an ownership stake in the team.

"I think it was a pretty big surprise," starter Chris Carpenter said. "I think a lot of people were caught off guard. Knowing Tony as long as I have, I know that he wasn't going to change his mind and there had to be a reason for it."

La Russa said the meeting Sunday night with his players was short but emotional.

"Some grown men cried," La Russa said. "I kind of liked that because they made me cry a few times."

More throughout the day here at and in Tuesday's Post-Dispatch.

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Baseball writers Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel cover the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch and They'll provide daily Cardinals updates here, from the start of spring training through the end of the season and beyond.

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