The year of 2013 for Major League Baseball was punctuated in December by the election of three of the greatest managers of their generation into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa will be inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 27, along with any electees designated by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. That ballot, which includes first-timers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent, is currently in the hands of those voters, and the results will be announced in New York on Jan. 8, simulcast live at 2 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Regardless of that outcome, it will be a first in history for the Hall this summer. Never before have three managers been inducted on the same stage. The trio, which accumulated 7,558 regular-season wins, 17 pennants and eight World Series titles, was elected unanimously by the 16-member Expansion Era Committee during a lengthy meeting earlier this month.
Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons as a big league manager with the Braves, winning the 1995 World Series and 14 consecutive division titles. Torre, who managed for 29 seasons, won six pennants and four World Series with the Yankees in an eight-year period from 1996-2003. La Russa managed for 33 years, winning it all once with the A's and twice with the Cardinals.
"You get started in March and everybody has the same aspirations," said Torre, now MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations. "I go back to my teenage years and getting to the World Series was something I always wanted to accomplish. Once you get into the competition, it never gets old. After we won in 1996 with the Yankees, even though it was what I wanted, I realized it wasn't enough. You keep driving and you never look back, I guess until now."
La Russa, Cox and Torre rank third, fourth and fifth in managerial victories in Major League history, each winning more than 2,000 games. Only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763) won more games than La Russa (2,728), Cox (2,504) and Torre (2,326).
La Russa claimed his success was the result of a team effort.
"If there was one thing I was taught growing up years ago," La Russa said, "it's about the whole organization. I've said it many times when I was with the White Sox, A's and Cardinals -- if you want to win, you've got to have it together, everybody coordinated."
Cox's election is coincidental to the candidacies of two of his Braves pitchers, Maddux and Glavine, who pitched for Cox for a decade from 1993-2002. Maddux totaled 355 wins -- 194 with the Braves -- and Glavine won 305, 244 for Atlanta. Just the thought of sharing the same stage behind the Clark Sports Center this July with either or both of those players is thrilling to Cox.
"Well, they're the guys who got me this far, that's for sure," Cox said. "It would just be unbelievably great, and I've got my fingers crossed for both of them. You talk about big-game pitchers, if you had Maddux or Glavine going, you always thought you were going to win. You talk about two competitors, Tommy Glavine did not go on the disabled list until very late in his career and Maddux was the same. One year, near the end of Spring Training, Maddux got hit by a line drive on the big toe of his right foot. And he was supposed to be our Opening Day pitcher. It was split wide open. Had to be stitched, it was swollen.
"I said, 'Mad Dog, we're not going to make this. We're going to have to do something else.' He said, 'Put me in the back of the rotation. We have two days off in between. Don't disable me. I'll be the fifth guy.' He threw a two-hit shutout for eight innings, so as I said, it would be quite an honor to go in with those two guys."
Cox, Torre and La Russa were among 12 people on the Expansion Era ballot, which included another landmark skipper, Billy Martin; players Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry and Ted Simmons; Marvin Miller, the influential executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association; and iconic Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner.
None of the other nine received more than six of the 16 possible votes. Like all Hall of Fame elections, a candidate's name needs to appear on at least 75 percent of the ballots to be elected. On this committee, that was 12 votes. Each member could vote for a maximum of five candidates.
Torre and Cox had each attended one recent induction, while La Russa has never been to one. Cox was there when Pat Gillick was inducted along with Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven in 2011, and Torre attended the weekend Tim McCarver received the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting a year later.
"I've experienced the chills when they get up there and speak," said Cox, who in his retirement is still working with the Braves as an organizational consultant. "I'm sure I'm going to have goosebumps, there's no doubt about that. I'm certainly looking forward to it, it's quite a class. No matter who the writers are going to vote in, it's going to be just tremendous. It's an honor for me to say I'm going to be a part of that."
"You realize you want to offer thanks to the people who made it possible," said La Russa, who began managing with the White Sox under owner Jerry Reinsdorf and is now a consultant to Major League Baseball for on-field issues. "You want to thank the family. There have been a lot sacrifices by my wife and daughter. You go to the park early and you stay late. And finally, you realize who is sitting behind you. I can categorically state I don't think I will ever feel comfortable as a member of that club."
"I can't tell you how I'm going to feel," said Torre, who also managed the Mets, Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers. "All I know, and Tony just said it, when you see who else is there, players who have obviously been inducted before you and come up every year. It's obviously special to them. I've admired these players even though I might have played or managed against some of them. So I don't know how I'm going to feel, but I can tell you it will be a feeling I've never had before."
Cox compiled a 2,504-2,001 (.556) record in his 29 seasons, which included four managing the Blue Jays. His Braves won the 1995 World Series and captured five National League pennants during his 25 years with Atlanta. Cox guided Atlanta to a record 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005.
La Russa had a 2,728-2,365 (.536) record in 33 seasons, winning the World Series with the A's in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006 and '11. He also guided Oakland to three American League pennants (1988-90) in 10 seasons and the Cards to three NL pennants (2004, '06 and '11) in 16 years. La Russa also spent eight seasons managing the White Sox, taking them to the AL Championship Series in 1983.
Following an 18-year playing career in which he had a .297 batting average and one batting title, Torre posted a 2,326-1,997 record, good for a .538 winning percentage. Torre led the Yankees to Series titles in 1996, '98, '99 and 2000 (in addition to 100-win seasons in 1998 and from 2002-04), and six AL pennants. He spent his first 14 seasons as manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, and finished his career managing the Dodgers from 2008-10. Torre took his teams in New York and Los Angeles into the playoffs every year from 1996-2009.
His aspirations to win the World Series repeatedly having been reached, Torre is now at a personal pinnacle.
"It's different," he said. "You know, I always obsessed about winning a World Series. It's a different feeling because you have something to do, you're trying to be proactive in winning a World Series. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is really somebody else's opinion. The quality of these people who voted us in, these baseball people, that means a lot to be recognized by your peers. These are the only guys who realize how tough it is to do what you do. So I didn't obsess about it, but when happened, it hit me like a sledgehammer. I'm a little fearful about the end of July at this point."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.