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This Day In St. Louis Baseball History: La Russa Wins Again

Today, November 7th, is the ten-year anniversary of Tony La Russa receiving his fourth and final Manager of the Year Award. What made La Russa’s fourth award so unique was that it came as the manager of the Cardinals — after winning Manager of the Year three times in the American League (1983 with the Chicago White Sox;  1988 and 1992 with the Oakland Athletics), La Russa won in 2002 in the National League, becoming only the second manager in baseball history (Bobby Cox was the first) to win Manager of the Year in both leagues.

In that 2002 season, La Russa led the Cards to a 97-65 record and a NL Central title. That team included 22-year-old left fielder Albert Pujols, current Cardinal manager and former catcher Mike Matheny, and a starting rotation led by Matt Morris and Jason Simontacchi. Unfortunately, La Russa’s job was especially difficult in 2002 after the sudden and unexpected death of starter Darryl Kile. Kile, a respected veteran starter and leader, was found dead in his hotel room when the Cards were playing a series in Chicago against the Cubs. La Russa’s ability to keep the Cardinals focused and committed even after their teammate had passed away was a true testament to his managing ability — that the Cards were able to win a division title under such horrible circumstances is even more remarkable.

La Russa retired after the Cardinals’ World Series victory last season, finishing with a record of 1408-1182 (.544) including three NL pennants and two World Series titles over his 16-year tenure with the Cards. La Russa finished his 33-year managerial career with six pennants and three World Series titles. In each of his three other Manager of the Year Award seasons, La Russa led the White Sox and Athletics to division titles as well.

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