A tribute piece is often the hardest kind of story to write. How is it possible to, in limited space, recount the life of someone who left a mark so significant that it qualifies as legendary? How do you capture all the failures and all the successes? How do you include the controversies and raised eyebrows, with the moments of complete clarity? What about the strategy, the knowledge, the wisdom?
There are a million moments that make up those memories. A million stories that explain the legacy left. And yet, when it’s over, we’re burdened – and privileged – with the task of recalling each one, succinctly and eloquently.
For Tony La Russa, there was perhaps no better tribute – no better final farewell – than his night as the manager of the 2012 National League All-Star team.
From start to finish, it was classic Tony La Russa.
First, the controversy. We’ve all heard it by now: failing to select Brandon Phillips and Johnny Cueto was an attempt at making the final move in the “Cincinnati Reds and Dusty Baker vs. St. Louis Cardinals and Tony La Russa” grudge match. Clearly.
Then there was the decision to start Matt Cain over R.A. Dickey. Not uncommonly, we heard echoes of “What is he thinking?!” throughout the baseball world.
But then there was Tony, calmly standing his ground.
Last night, he rallied a team that was undoubtedly the on-paper underdog and watched as they faced Mr. MVP himself, Justin Verlander. And, as so often happens on a TLR-led squad, things started to happen. Good things. Unheard of things. Things that led to a five-run first inning against arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Tony La Russa things.
Matt Cain pitched two scoreless innings. Pablo Sandoval broke the game open with a three-run triple in the first.
“Cain, Sandoval make La Russa look like a genius,” the headlines read this morning. » Continue reading “Tony La Russa’s All-Star Finale”