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Posted May 7, 2009
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Tony La Russa grew up in Tampa, Florida and unlike most kids that wanted to be a fireman one week and a policeman the next, Tony wanted to play baseball. And not only did he want to play at that early age, he wanted to win. The youngster played in the little leagues and later an American Legion team and he grew as a player at every level.
His first contact with the major leagues was when Charlie Finley came to his home in Tampa and as soon as he graduated high school Finley signed him to a contract with the Kansas City Athletics. Tony was 18 years old, and spent his contract time with the Athletics then he was assigned to a Kansas City farm club in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was a utility infielder playing mainly short stop and in that first season hit .258. Near the end of the season they bumped him up to class A and in 12 games he hit .186.
La Russa had some success in the minor leagues but his work ethic probably kept him in the game as much as his playing talent. During his latter years in the minor leagues he spent time with the Atlanta Braves organization and was hitting .308 for a good stretch. But late in the season when he wasn't called up to the Braves, he began to think it was time to look for another way to make a living.
Once again La Russa's work ethic and growing knowledge of the game had gotten the attention of Loren Babe, manager of the White Sox triple A team at Denver. Then in 1978 when the White Sox club at Knoxville needed help Babe thought La Russa might make a good manager. The front office offered him the job and La Russa not only took the job, but he also turned the club around. Then just a year and a half later in August 1979 Sox owner Bill Veeck called La Russa up to manage the White Sox.
Tony La Russa at the age of 34 became the youngest manager in the major leagues and he was taking over a team that had won 46 games and lost 60. They were 14 games behind the American League leader California.
The young man had his work cut out for him, but Bill Veeck believed he could do it.
Rob Rains is a skilled sports writer and tells the story of a man that was driven to win and became a top major league manager.
Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission will keep you turning pages beginning with Joe Buck's Foreword right through to the end.
Tom Barnes author of 'Doc Holliday's Road to Tombstone.'
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