The team that refused to give up their manager in his final season A comeback that changed baseball
After thirty-three seasons managing in Major League Baseball, Tony La Russa thought he had seen it all—that is, until the 2011 Cardinals. Down ten and a half games with little more than a month to play, the Cardinals had long been ruled out as serious postseason contenders. Yet in the face of those steep odds, this team mounted one of the most dramatic and impressive comebacks in baseball history, making the playoffs on the night of the final game of the season and going on to win the World Series despite being down to their last strike—twice.
Now La Russa gives the inside story behind this astonishing comeback and his remarkable career, explaining how a team with so much against it was able to succeed on baseball's biggest stage. Opening up about the devastating injuries, the bullpen struggles, the crucial games, and the players who made it all possible, he reveals how the team's character shaped its accomplishments, demonstrating how this group came together in good times and in bad to become that rarest of things: a team that actually enjoyed it when the odds were against them.
But this story is much more than that of a single season. As La Russa, the third-winningest manager in baseball history, explains, their season was the culmination of a lifetime spent studying the game. Laying bare his often scrutinized and frequently misunderstood approach to managing, he explains his counterintuitive belief in process over result, present moments over statistics, and team unity over individual talent. Along the way he shares the stories from throughout his career that shaped his outlook—from his first days managing the Chicago White Sox to his championship years with the Oakland A's, to his triumphant tenure as St. Louis's longest-serving manager. Setting the record straight on his famously intense style, he explores the vital yet overlooked role that his personal relationships with his players have contributed to his victories, ultimately showing how, in a sport often governed by cold, hard numbers, the secret to his success has been surprisingly human.
Speaking candidly about his decision to retire, La Russa discusses the changes that he'd observed both in the game and in himself that told him, despite his success, it was time to hang up his spikes. The end result is a passionate, insightful, and remarkable look at our national pastime that takes you behind the scenes of the comeback that no one thought possible and inside the mind of one of the game's greatest managers.
I know some Tony La Russa detractors, and I have to admit that there were times during his tenure as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals that his micro-managing and convoluted strategies would drive me crazy. But it's hard to argue with results, and even before the miraculous 2011 season, I felt that there was nobody in baseball who devoted more energy and intelligence to the game. And then came 2011. Devastating injuries, including a season-ending one for Adam Wainwright in spring training. Struggles in the bullpen. Long losing streaks. Ten and a half games out in late August. After that point, the character of the team, their ability to take it and keep coming back, came to the forefront. It seemed there was never a time that the Cardinals did not have their backs to the wall, especially in game 6 of the World Series when they were twice down to their last strike. It was the single most exhilarating game I've ever seen. And I'm very thankful that it lit a spark in my younger son Jacob. He became a fan that night, and now he and I have had many pleasurable times watching and talking baseball together.Anyway, La Russa is responsible for that more than any single man. This book is a well-told tale of that season, and La Russa's reminiscences of previous players and seasons. A most enjoyable book for any baseball fan, and especially for a Cardinal fan.read more
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As a converted Cardinal fan, the 2011 season was a roller coaster ride of a season, one that tested every fan's capacity for excitement. The subsequent post season became a microcosm of the season, albeit in a much more exciting form and a more compressed time scale. I had hoped that someone would write a book about the season, but I was delighted and a bit conflicted after hearing that Tony La Russa was working on such a book. excited because I knew we would get a look behind the curtain, conflicted because La Russa has always been somewhat aloof and closed up about what he did and his relationship with other people. This book has both surprised me by its openness at points and reinforced my initial reaction.La Russa has had a reputation for being extremely cerebral as a manager and somewhat cold hearted. He makes an incredibly detailed and emotional recount of the year that was 2011 for the Cardinals. He starts the story at the end of the 2010 season, recounting the disappointment of the season and the post season moves. he occasionally takes side trips into his past, as a player and as a coach to recall lessons learned and experiences gained. True to form, there weren't too many good old boy back slapping stories, although the narrative was not devoid of humor and comradry, The salient and very precise recounting of every critical decision he made throughout the season was a phenomenal bonus. True to form, La Russa was reasoned, detailed, and incredibly hard on himself for the miscalculations and mistakes. He proved to be extremely sentimental about former players and coaches and showed a side of himself that the fans don't often see. He wasn't completely magnanimous though, as he recounted various runinsa nd feuds that he had with others. His recounting of his run-in with Ozzie Smith during Ozzies last season was curt and unchanged from what he had said all along. His recounting of the controversy between him and Dusty Baker over the 2012 all star selection choices was also brusque and almost dismissive. he didn't even mention Baker by name.In the end, this book could and should be dissected by anyone looking to become a coach and/or manager, regardless of sport. It is a recounting of a manager going about his craft, "grinding" it out as La Russa puts it and it is a grand lesson in the coaching profession which happen to culminated in a world series championship season. It is also a very detailed recounting of a great Cardinal year and an emotional farewell to a great manager. 11 in '11.read more
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