La Russa moving up all-time wins list

June 8th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Tony La Russa steadfastly didn’t want to talk about his managerial-wins record until he had surpassed John McGraw’s total for second place all-time in Major League Baseball history.

La Russa avoided taking the focus away from impressive victories earned by his American League Central-leading team, while also following a one-day-at-a-time approach and trying not to anger the baseball gods, as he would joke.

But after a 3-0 victory over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field that gave La Russa win No. 2,764, the 76-year-old had time to reflect more so than celebrate. He thanked everyone who made that moment possible, from the owners he worked for, the coaches he worked with, the players he presided over, and of course, his family.

“It feels very similar there toward the end to getting into Cooperstown. It's not just personal,” La Russa said. “Today was a perfect example: wrote the lineup up, watch the pitching coaches get the starters and the relievers ready, watch the hitting coach, watch the defensive coaches get [Adam] Engel back.

“There really wasn't anything except cheerleading. It's a tribute, I think, to good fortune. It's real emotional for me that it started here and it's ended up here. I said at Cooperstown, I never had a bad day, ownership, front office, player development, players and staff.”

earned the victory in La Russa’s historic moment, striking out 10, walking one and allowing five hits over seven innings. He improved to 7-0 in seven career starts against the Tigers, receiving offensive help from and , who knocked out two hits apiece, with Anderson collecting two RBIs.

Engel, who was reinstated from the 10-day IL prior to the game and hit eighth, took a home run away from Niko Goodrum leading off the fifth on a drive to center. That catch came after the center fielder made a running grab of Akil Baddoo’s line drive to open the game that looked eerily similar to a play Engel sustained his right hamstring injury on during Spring Training.

After the victory, which moved the White Sox to four games ahead of second-place Cleveland in the American League Central, Engel took his jersey out of the laundry to get La Russa’s autograph in honor of 2,764.

“That’s a lot of wins. Probably the coolest stat I think any professional can have is wins,” Engel said. “You have guys who can hit a lot of home runs, have a lot of strikeouts, but at the end of the day, you are trying to win the game.

“To have that many wins, to be a part of that many wins, it’s unbelievable. It means a lot to me. Winning is the reason I play the game. To hear he’s got that many wins, that’s an unbelievable accomplishment for him and his family. I’m really happy to be a part of it.”

As is the case with many records that date back to baseball’s earliest days, there is some discrepancy on the all-time managerial wins leaderboard. If you look online at sites such as Baseball-Reference, you will see McGraw listed with 2,763 victories. However, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, which is MLB's official record keeper, McGraw actually had 2,840 wins, which keeps him 76 ahead of La Russa.

This discrepancy comes from games McGraw's teams won while he was absent due to illness. MLB policy is to count these victories, as long as the manager returns to the team, but other sources do not include these wins in their tallies. (This same policy also has applied to more recent managers such as Joe Torre and Terry Francona). Therefore, Sunday's victory actually left La Russa 77 shy of passing McGraw, at least on Elias' official list.

That said, the White Sox’s skipper is well positioned to pass McGraw on Elias' list as soon as next season. La Russa’s 2,764 victories place him well behind Connie Mack’s No. 1 total of 3,731. Mack also had 3,948 losses, making La Russa the all-time wins leader for a manager with a record above .500.

“I didn't even think this was attainable, actually,” La Russa said. “I'm talking about the last four, five years of my career. I didn't think this was ever going to happen. Even the year I retired, my family was very upset because they wanted this to happen. But you go out when you think you're done."

Thirty-four years of managing began for La Russa in 1979 with the White Sox and appeared to end with his third World Series championship as part of the Cardinals in 2011. Then, the White Sox opportunity came about and brought La Russa out of retirement to run a team possessing a chance to win another title.

So, Sunday’s celebration will be short-lived. La Russa will enjoy Monday’s off-day, ending a stretch of 27 games in 27 days during which the White Sox finished 17-10, and then get ready to face Toronto.

“Hopefully, we get to October and our fans are excited,” said La Russa, who tipped his cap to the fans’ applause after his mark was announced. “You get to October, anything can happen.

“There’s no relaxation or taking anything for granted. It's just getting ready to compete, see who's good enough. Simple."