La Russa: 'I brought this on myself. I know it'

December 21st, 2020

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Tony La Russa expressed “deep remorse and regret” for a DUI charge resulting from a traffic stop last February. Following a guilty plea from La Russa, an Arizona judge on Monday reduced the charge to reckless driving, fined him $1,300, and sentenced him to one day of home detention and 20 hours of community service.

La Russa spoke to the media on Monday for the first time since he was hired on Oct. 29 for a second managerial run with the White Sox. He opened with a three-minute statement concerning his transgression.

“I brought this on myself. I know it,” La Russa said. “It’s impossible, actually, to explain how daily and deeply this gets at you and has bothered me for a long time.

“Obviously, I displayed bad judgment that night in February. I am grateful for the White Sox for standing by me, even though this happened before they hired me. I really feel like I let them down and many others. My family, friends, and starting out in Chicago, I’ve let the fans down. I think about fans in Oakland and St. Louis, many of them became friends, and now starting again in Chicago, it’s not the way I wanted to start my relationship the second time around.”

The White Sox knew about the incident when they hired La Russa to replace Rick Renteria, since La Russa informed the team before conversations grew serious.

“Their decision was that it is a mistake,” La Russa said. “They know how serious it is, but they decided to support me, and I appreciate them for that.”

A statement also was issued by the White Sox on Monday:

“With today's announcement, Tony La Russa accepted responsibility and has been held legally accountable for his poor behavior and the questionable choices he made last February. The White Sox understand the anger and concern expressed by some about hiring Tony under these circumstances. Tony has expressed to us his remorse, and he understands he brought this on himself.

 “We understand that people make mistakes and exercise poor judgment in life. In this case, Tony is fortunate his decisions that night did not injure himself or anyone else. We also believe people deserve the opportunity, at all points in their lives, to improve. Tony knows there is no safety net below him. There cannot be a third strike.

 “Tony has a proud and productive history with the White Sox and Major League Baseball, which is why we are standing by him. He has done his job exceptionally well in the past. He has always shown an ability to inspire his players and to bring his teams to a championship level. We are confident that Tony will improve our team, while improving himself.”

When La Russa was hired in October, questions emerged concerning the 76-year-old three-time World Series champion being away from the dugout too long after last managing the Cardinals to a title in 2011. There also was concern about him relating to modern plays.

Those points were recognized as valid by La Russa on Monday, and now he has to prove himself both on and off the field. He immediately took a 20-hour alcohol counseling course provided by the state of Arizona and called it very helpful. The severity of his mistake was reinforced by that course, although he does not feel this second charge (following a misdemeanor DUI in 2007 in Florida) is indicative of a greater problem with alcohol.

“I know I don't have a drinking problem, just like I know I made a serious mistake in February,” he said. “And where I am right now is to prove that I don't have a drinking problem and to prove it every day off the field that I'm going to handle it. What's painfully clear to me is: If I have a drink, I will not drive.

“There's always an alternative: Have a car service, call Lyft, Uber, have a friend, if I'm with somebody. The options, the alternatives, are going to help me prove that I'm going to take care of this issue the way it should be.”

La Russa views his next step following Monday’s resolution as an almost completely personal challenge.

“The anguish that I've felt for nine months, I will never forget,” he said. “The embarrassment, the remorse that I feel, that I've mentioned for making a mistake that's this serious in nature, and the effect on my family and friends and fans before the White Sox, but now especially starting new, that's going to weigh heavily with me every single day, and that is going to show itself by my determination to prove myself.

“It's very simple. I'll have a glass of wine. If I have a glass of wine, I won't drive. If you see me driving, it's because I have not been drinking.”