Ex-Cards manager La Russa speaks in Aspen
December 19, 2011
ASPEN – Theatre Aspen holds opening-night parties and other events throughout the year to reach out to the community. But Sunday night, the nonprofit offered something a little different – the chance to mingle with and hear remarks from Tony La Russa, the recently retired manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and the third-winningest manager in major league history.
La Russa, a sponsor of Theatre Aspen, spoke at a board member’s home in an event meant to raise awareness for the group as well as provide board members, friends, sponsors and others a unique opportunity.
“[We invited] people we thought might appreciate the opportunity,” said Graham Northrup, director of education. “We really wanted to reach out to the community.”
La Russa shared stories from throughout his career, from his first game as manager for the Chicago White Sox to highlights from the 2011 World Series.
Prior to Game 6, the owner and the general manager had a meeting with La Russa to say that if the Cardinals lost, they thought it would be appropriate for the players to acknowledge the fans in Busch Stadium. So in the ninth inning, when they were down by 2, La Russa called the bullpen coach – “Did it work this time?” interjected a Dodgers fan in attendance – to tell everyone except the guys going to bat that they were going to come out of the dugout at the end of the game.
“So we actually had that conversation, and we tied the game in the ninth,” La Russa said. “So now Hamilton scores in the 10th, and it’s the same thing – ‘Hey. Don’t forget.’ So the irony in that that I will never forget – when you literally are getting ready to say, ‘Hey fans, thanks for the support,’ and you feel like crying, and we win.”
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When an attendee asked if he still would have retired even without a World Series win, La Russa said he had made that decision in July.
“I was out,” he said. “It was just lucky. It was a fairy-tale ending for me to go out on top.”
But La Russa isn’t done with the game.
“I just retired from the dugout and from being a manager,” he said. “I have a lot of energy. I feel great. I really know baseball. I’ll go back to work in baseball in some capacity.”
La Russa became involved in supporting Theatre Aspen through his friendship with artistic director Paige Price. The two met in California more than 15 years ago when Price was performing in a Broadway show there and La Russa was managing the Oakland A’s. La Russa and his wife had started their nonprofit organization, the Animal Rescue Foundation, and Price helped them put on an entertainment show as a fundraiser. Now, La Russa is supportive of Price and her endeavors with the Aspen nonprofit.
La Russa said as he’s gotten to know the organization, he’s seen it grow and connect with the community, and he noted the work it does with youth. He said he wanted to speak at the event to bring awareness to the work the organization does.
“The amount of success you have [in a nonprofit] depends on the support you get,” he said.
La Russa said athletes and entertainers have a lot in common. Price said he used to ask her what she did to prepare for a show.
“Doing eight shows a week is a lot like playing games – the discipline, the preparation,” she said.
He also has a personal interest in entertainment thanks to his two daughters.
“Both of them are dancers, and the arts is what we’re about,” he said.