1983: Tony LaRussa, American League Manager of the Year
Tony LaRussa kicked around organized baseball for 16 seasons, but played only 132 games in the major leagues during that span. After playing as a utility infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans in 1977, LaRussa retired to take a job as a minor league manager for the Chicago White Sox.
He was an instant hit, leading Double-A Knoxville to an 88-56 record and the Southern League championship. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Iowa for the 1979 season, where the Oaks were 69-67 on Aug. 3 when lightning struck. Player-manager Don Kessinger was fired and LaRussa got the call to replace him.
He never managed in the minors again. He inherited a 46-60 team and led them to a 27-27 finish. The Sox were 70-90 in 1980, went 54-52 in 1981 strike season and improved to 87-75 in 1982.
In 1983, LaRussa piloted Chicago to a 99-63 record and the team’s first postseason appearance since 1959. That earned him the AL Manager of the Year award, though the White Sox would be bounced in four games by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS.
LaRussa remained with the Sox until he was fired on June 20, 1986, with the White Sox at 26-36. In parts of eight seasons, LaRussa’s teams were 522-510.
He wouldn’t be unemployed long. LaRussa was hired by the Oakland A’s a few weeks later, on July 7, 1986, and stayed there through the 1995 season. The A’s won three pennants and a World Series title in 1989 before he jumped to the Cardinals in 1996. In 16 seasons, St. Louis won three pennants and two World Series rings, reaching the playoffs nine times in all.
He retired after the 2011 season in third place on the all-time wins list with 2,728, per Baseball-Reference.com. After several years in the front office and as a consultant, however, LaRussa will be back in the dugout in 2021, as he was re-hired by the White Sox last Oct. 29 to replace Rich Renteria.