When the White Sox announced the hiring of Tony La Russa as their manager on Oct. 29 — to much disappointment, objection and concern from fans, media and many in the baseball industry, including Sox on-field and off-field personnel — the headline on the press release read: ‘‘Hall of Famer Tony La Russa named White Sox manager.’’
That status was worthy of trumpeting and, for a man who hasn’t managed a game since 2011, worth noting. And La Russa made sure the police officer who arrested him for driving under the influence in February knew it, too, according to additional details of the arrest report making the rounds Tuesday.
On the day before La Russa’s hiring was announced, he was charged with DUI stemming from that arrest in Phoenix. It was his second DUI in 14 years after one in 2007 in Florida while he was managing the Cardinals.
‘‘Do you see my ring?’’ La Russa asked before being put in a vehicle, according to the full arrest report from the Maricopa County (Arizona) Police Department. ‘‘I’m a legit Hall of Famer baseball person. . . . I’m legit. I’m a Hall of Famer, brother. You’re trying to embarrass me.’’
‘‘Embarrassing’’ was the widely accepted way of describing a Sox hire that went from unpopular the day it happened to a public-relations nightmare Monday, when it became known the team knew about La Russa’s run-in with the law. In fact, the Sox knew it when chairman Jerry Reinsdorf made his friend the team’s manager for the second time in La Russa’s career.
Further embarrassment was avoided Tuesday when Rick Renteria, who was fired before La Russa was hired, did not win American League Manager of the Year. Renteria, a solid citizen who brought nary a glimpse of shame to the organization in three seasons as the Sox’ manager and one as their bench coach, finished second to the Rays’ Kevin Cash in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after leading the Sox to a 35-25 record and their first playoff appearance since 2008.
Meanwhile, for much of the day after the DUI news broke, the fallout was not good.
Fans and talk-show hosts vowed not to buy tickets to games; fans mobilized to complain to the Sox’ corporate sponsors; respected national columnists blasted Reinsdorf and La Russa; national sports talkers, such as Michael Wilbon, called on the Sox to back out of the deal with La Russa; and a top free agent, right-hander Marcus Stroman, said on Twitter he wouldn’t sign with the Sox.
Why? Because of La Russa.
‘‘Baffling on all measures,’’ Stroman tweeted.
When asked how much money it would take to play for La Russa, Stroman replied: ‘‘No amount of money honestly. Peace of mind is always a priority.’’
Stroman later responded to La Russa’s ‘‘Hall of Famer’’ quote getting out by tweeting: ‘‘It keeps getting worse. Smh!’’
While declining comment Monday ‘‘because this is an open case,’’ the Sox are maintaining La Russa’s job is safe. But they didn’t make things better by remaining quiet Tuesday, issuing no statement from the team or from La Russa, who deserves due process. The questions won’t end, however, and the Sox eventually will have to answer them.