Tony Larussa is a 3× World Series champion (1989, 2006, 2011) and 4× Manager of the Year (1983, 1988, 1992, 2002).
I spoke to the newest manager of the Chicago White Sox about the dominance of his Oakland Athletics teams, his video game Tony La Russa Baseball, and his career batting average of .199. Not only is he a Hall of Fame manager, we he is also the founder of ARF, the Animal Rescue Foundation.
Watch the Tony LaRussa interview video here:
Paul Eide: You moved to Oakland in the latter part of the 80s and early 90s and that team was just an absolute machine. And me being 10 and 11 years old at the time, it was just so cohesive and it was just so dominant — like a machine. I mean you had the Bash Brothers, but that whole team was tough. You’ve got Dave Stewart on the mound, you’ve got Carney Lansford; even Mike Gallego and Walt Weiss were tough. It seemed like everyone knew what they were doing at all times. How would you describe that level of cohesion?
Tony LaRussa: Well that part of cohesion was something we developed in Chicago and later St. Louis.To me it’s a frame of mind that you put together where your team is your is your family a little bit. Like the military.
You know it’s a brotherhood we all do our best but we’re working together and you know that’s that connects you forever. Those relationships exist to this day it just turned out in Oakland and later on in St. Louis you know we had some talent there. Every so often they would just go up to me and tell me “hey, just tell us what time the game starts, who were playing, and just get out of the way.”
Paul Eide: That’s what it looked and felt like, too! I have to ask about the Tony LaRussa Baseball video game. A huge video game for me as a kid. It’s become even more relevant now with sabermetrics. What do you know remember about producing that video game?
Tony LaRussa: I remember coming to Oakland and we started to have success. And a gentleman named Don Daglow, who lives in the Bay Area, approached me. He was part of I think one of the first computer baseball video games; he worked with Earl Weaver on Earl Weaver Baseball and then he had moved the Bay Area.
He contacted us and knew that we were really into preparation and we just talked baseball. And he created this game which I guess you know I ran for three or four, five years. And several years it was like, you know, sports game of the year or something. So it was Don Daglow that was the inspiration for that game. But I knew that we had a basis for the game, you know a pitching coach like Dave Duncan an example was incredible how cutting-edge he was.
Paul Eide: You’ve mentioned preparation several times and it’s been noted that you have a close friendship with Bill Belichick the Patriots head coach. He’s a huge proponent of preparation, which is covered extensively in the book The Education Of A Coach. What’s the one characteristic that you guys have in common? And, can talk about the necessity of preparation?
Tony LaRussa: Well, it’s hard to say one thing. What we talk about a lot is that creating that family where accountability of each person to the team, but then you also have to get that frame of mind where you treat every single practice as preparation for the game. And you mean quality repetitions.
You build your competitiveness from the ground up. You know that just by doing the the fundamentals correctly, then you’ll play the game at a higher level. And then, you just understand that it’s a game against another team, that there’s a score, and you’re supposed to your best to win the game.
If you win you, you celebrate. If you lose, you tip your cap. But one of neat things about what we’re talking about, while we’re here, Bill has been a huge friend since we’ve been friends probably about 10 years now. He’s always supported our efforts with ARF. He’s been involved in our Pets and Vets campaign.
Four paws, a wagging tail, specialized training and a lot of heart is the recipe for transforming a rescue dog needing a home into a service dog helping veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder. Recent studies are finding that Veterans with service dogs report lower levels of depression and anxiety among other benefits.
And in fact I’ve talked to Bill about this service dog named Lucas, who he has spent time with, he’s been involved with our pets and vets program. So I’m sure he has already watched the Purina video about the ARF program. He asked me how to help and I told him, “hey just go to Purina.com dog chow slash service and he commented how much he enjoyed it. He’s said how many times he’s gonna share it. Now if he gets that word out, with a popular the Patriots are, hopefully gonna raise a lot of money and get these services members the help they need.
Paul Eide: Final question, this one about your playing career. Are you upset that your career batting average is .199 and not .200?
Tony LaRussa: Yeah man! When you call it the Mendoza Line, I was closer to the “LaRussa Line,” just a shade under .200. So if I got one more hit, I’d be right at the Mendoza Line. But seriously, realising how bad I was I was as a player, lucky I got that close to .200.