Tony La Russa passes John McGraw for second on all-time wins list as Sox beat Tigers
Already a Hall of Famer with three World Series rings, La Russa added another highlight to his resume and did it in the city where he started his managerial career.
When Tony La Russa was hired, legitimate questions existed about how he would be accepted by the White Sox’ players. An old-school manager taking over a bold and brash new-school team seemed to be an odd fit and one that could lead to trouble.
After the Sox beat the Tigers 3-0 on Sunday to give him his 2,764th managerial victory to pass John McGraw for second all-time, La Russa was congratulated by his players, who seemed to relish the moment, in the post-victory handshake line.
“The most important part of this season so far is the way the players have included me as part of the family,” La Russa said. “And our coaching staff. We had some holdovers, we had some new guys. That’s the most important part.”
Sunday marked another important moment for La Russa in a season that already has had a few memorable episodes.
The Sox hold a four-game lead over the second-place Indians, despite the absence of Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez. There also have been questions about La Russa’s methods and decisions, most recently his choice Saturday to have Danny Mendick bunt against Tigers reliever Derek Holland with runners on first and second and none out.
But Sunday was a true highlight for La Russa. Already a Hall of Famer with three World Series rings, he passed McGraw and did so managing the same team he started with over four decades ago.
Dylan Cease pitched the Sox to the victory but said he wasn’t aware La Russa was closing in on the mark. If he had known, Cease said it might have made him try too hard.
“First off, the guy’s a Hall of Famer, so you have to respect him,” Cease said. “It’s pretty legendary to say that we get to play for him. He’s calm, he’s funny. It’s nice having him at the helm.”
So for now, it sounds as if the bonding process is going well.
“The wins are going to take care of themselves, but the togetherness and the fact that you’re going to compete together,” La Russa said. “I’ve got a lot more respect to earn, and credibility, but they’ve allowed me to get a head start. I feel close to them, and they show it to me every day.”
Outfielder Adam Engel, who played for La Russa in a regular-season game for the first time, said it meant a lot to him to take part in the milestone win. Engel said it’s an “unbelievable accomplishment” for La Russa and his family, and he even wanted a keepsake from the day.
“You have guys who can hit a lot of home runs, have a lot of strikeouts, but at the end of the day, you are trying to win the game,” Engel said. “To have that many wins, to be a part of that many wins, it’s unbelievable. I had my jersey taken out of the laundry so I could have Tony sign my jersey today.”
La Russa and the Sox are looking for other memories a few months down the line. They have had injuries but are into June holding onto first place, and they have shown a winning -mentality.
Whatever happens with injuries, La Russa is confident that the Sox will give it their “best shot” at the end.
“It hasn’t been fair for every team, everybody’s been hurt,” La Russa said. “But if we’re given a legitimate chance, then we’ve got a legitimate chance to qualify for October and see what happens. That’s the goal. Never give in, never give up. The guys believe in it. We’ll see.”