Editor’s Note: For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 9 on our countdown is a column from December 11, 2013.
The other day it was announced that Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, who rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, on the career list of Major League Baseball managerial victories, were elected unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the expansion-era committee.
La Russa, Cox and Torre combined for 7,558 wins and eight World Series championships. Individually each of them surpassed 2,000 wins. No manager with at least 2000 wins has ever been excluded from admittance to Cooperstown.
With their election to the Hall of Fame each of the three managers earn a place on my personal Mount Rushmore of managers joining former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who until now had been a floating head of granite awaiting the arrival of some companions in the mountain of my mind.
Granted placing imaginary heads of granite on a mythical “Mount Rushmore” is a purely subjective exercise. A case could be made for many other worthy managers to be included.
Arguments can be made about the various eras of baseball and how to weigh the accomplishments of managers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the managers of the modern era.
Even the actual Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which features larger than life busts of presidents Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, is occasionally the subject of revisionist desire.
There was a time when people thought the “Gipper” himself Ronald Reagan deserved to be forever etched in stone on the side of a mountain.
Some folks even went so far as to say that the “Roughrider” himself Teddy Roosevelt could be surgically altered and transformed into the face of Ronald Reagan.
In the end Mount Rushmore was left as is and an airport and other things were named after President Regan instead.
So with the understanding firmly established that the Mount Rushmore of managers is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the eye of the writer, I will make my case as to why I feel Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre deserve to be on my Mount Rushmore.
For starters it should be noted that until 2011 all three men were managers during my awareness of baseball.
Granted there were a few years where I was alive and they weren’t managing but from my earliest baseball memories to my earliest baseball cards all three men were in the dugout guiding their teams.
In fact each of the three men began their careers as managers within two years of each other, between 1977 and ’79, and concluded their stay between 2010 and 2011.
It has seemed odd the last few years without having at least one of them managing. The absence of Lou Pinella in a Major League Baseball dugout is also taking some getting used to as he was another manager that just always seemed to be there along with Jim Leyland.
Adding to the granite worthiness of Cox, La Russa and Torre is the fact that each of them managed in both the National and American Leagues showing adaptability to the nuances of the two styles of play.
Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.
Under Cox the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005 and one World Series title in 1995. Cox also led the Toronto Blue Jays to their first AL East title in 1985.
As I have mentioned before my grandmother is a huge Atlanta Braves fan so whenever I would visit we would watch the Bobby Cox led Braves play. I also had the opportunity to see Cox and the Braves in person a few times at Minute Maid Park when they came to town to play the Houston Astros.
I also was able to see Tony La Russa on many occasions at Minute Maid Park when he was manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. In total La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League.
La Russa seized the opportunity to go out on top when he retired shortly after guiding the St. Louis Cardinals to their second World Series title under his watch in 2011. In addition to his two titles with St. Louis La Russa also won the World Series in 1989 with the Oakland Athletics and joined Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson as the only managers to win World Series in both leagues.
Of course one could also say that Sparky deserves a spot on the Mount Rushmore of managers based on his stellar career as well but let us not muddy the waters before getting to the last candidate for granite infamy.
Joe Torre managed 17 seasons in the National League and 12 with the Yankees in the American League. Like Cox Torre managed the Atlanta Braves, and like La Russa Torre managed the St. Louis Cardinals.
Although Torre’s success with the Braves and Cardinals was nowhere near the level that Cox and La Russa had with those organizations he did eventually find a favorable situation in New York.
Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees.
During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.
Although I was never able to see Torre in person when he was with the Yankees I did get to see his team in action when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he won two NL West crowns before retiring after the 2010 season.
So there you have it, three newly minted Hall of Famers and three former managers who careers are worthy of carving into stone.
Let the arguments continue over the Mount Rushmore of managers. For me my mountain is set. One might go so far as say it is written in stone.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start planning the next group of people that should be etched into granite. Quint, we’re going to need a bigger mountain.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson