COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Tony La Russa was caught off-guard by the large crowd on hand for Sunday’s National Baseball Hall of Fame induction.
The ex-White Sox manager, one of six inductees into the Hall of Fame’s 75th class, said the last few months of build up to Sunday has created an “appreciation of what it takes” to join the club. That appreciation only grew when La Russa spotted from the media bus the estimated crowd of 48,000 spectators, the third-largest in Cooperstown history.
“You’re looking around and get goose pimples and you drive and see what looked like the greatest rock concert that you’ve been to,” La Russa said. “There were a lot of Atlanta fans, Chicago fans and New York fans that were there to support. Just the appreciation the fans have for our game, that’s what I enjoyed the most.”
La Russa spoke about his appreciation for the game during a 17-minute, 25-second speech. Whether it was with the White Sox, Oakland A’s or St. Louis Cardinals, La Russa said he had way too many people to thank for a career that produced three World Series titles and six pennants.
He mentioned five players from six seasons on the South Side, including Carlton Fisk, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Harold Baines and Greg Luzinski as well as long-time trainer Herm Schneider.
He also cited his constant baseball conversations over 30 years with Jim Leyland and credited longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan for accounting for hundreds of the 2,728 career victories he amassed.
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La Russa again mentioned George Kissell, who spent 70 years with the Cardinals and mentored the Hall of Famer during his early days, noting his advice: “If you want to manage you have to love the game and want to learn it.”
La Russa also singled out two players, Baines and Albert Pujols, but professed he couldn’t name everyone over the three organizations.
“There’s no way to mention everybody and that bothers me,” La Russa said.