White Sox manager Tony La Russa, remorseful, embarrassed and “angry” at himself for getting behind the wheel while legally intoxicated 10 months ago, pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor reckless-driving charge, and an Arizona judge gave him one day of home detention.
Maricopa County Judge Ashley Fritz also ordered La Russa to pay a $1,383 fine and perform 20 hours of community service during a telephonic hearing that resolved the driving-under-the-influence case that went public shortly after La Russa’s hire this fall.
It was the second DUI arrest for La Russa, who completed a 20-hour alcohol-counseling program after the latest one but said he does not have an alcohol problem. He vowed to never drive, and the Sox, in their first statement about the arrest, said “there cannot be a third strike.”
“I feel deep remorse and regret over what I did,” La Russa said on a conference call with reporters shortly after receiving his sentence. “It’s impossible to explain how deeply this gets at you and has bothered me for a long time. Obviously, I used bad judgment that night in February. I am grateful to the White Sox for standing by me even though this happened before they hired me. I really let them down, and many others — my family and friends. In Chicago, I let the fans down.”
La Russa said he “brought this on myself. I know it.”
La Russa, grateful his close friend Jerry Reinsdorf, the Sox’ chairman, hired him to take the reins where he began a Hall of Fame managerial career in 1979, said he won’t forget “the anguish” he has experienced since February. La Russa said he informed the Sox about his arrest before they got serious about hiring him.
“I know I need to prove myself, both on and off the field,” he said.
“The embarrassment, the remorse that I feel for making a mistake that’s this serious in nature, and the effect on my family and friends and fans before the White Sox, but now especially starting new, that’s going to weigh heavily with me every single day, and that is going to show itself by my determination to prove myself. I know I had to prove myself on the field when I got the job, but I have to prove myself off the field, and it’s very simple.”
After the hearing, Maricopa County Justice Court spokesman Scott Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times that “plea agreements like this, which seem to come with reduced fines or jail terms, are very common and would have presumably nothing to do with a person’s status in the community.
“This is very normal.’’
The Sox had not commented until the team released a four-paragraph statement Monday.
“We understand that people make mistakes and exercise poor judgment in life,” it read. “In this case, Tony is fortunate his decisions that night did not injure himself or anyone else. We also believe people deserve the opportunity, at all points in their lives, to improve. Tony knows there is no safety net below him. There cannot be a third strike.”
The Sox, after reaching the postseason for the first time since 2008 and seemingly primed to continue on a winning arc, surprised the baseball world when they fired manager Rick Renteria after the season, then stunned it by hiring La Russa, 76, who hadn’t managed since 2011. Fans and media pushed back on the hire, La Russa’s Hall of Fame accomplishments notwithstanding. And that was before the DUI news.
The Sox, who added Cy Young contender Lance Lynn to the rotation and Adam Eaton to the outfield this month while waiting for the legal drama to play out, aren’t wavering on their commitment to La Russa but still have a long way to go to get past a public-relations mess.
“I think about the fans in Oakland and St. Louis [where he won World Series], many of them became friends,” La Russa said. “And now it’s starting in Chicago. It’s not the way I wanted to start my relationship the second time around.”