For most of his long and very successful run in St. Louis, he was Tense Tony. The guy who rarely smiled. The guy who managed a “Hard Nine.” The guy who couldn’t tell you how his day was going until after the Cardinals’ game was over.
But it has been five years since Tony La Russa last managed the Cardinals, stepping down after the team’s miracle run to the World Series title in 2011. And the lighter side of Tony the Tyrant, rarely seen during his 16 years in the Cards’ dugout, is on display Wednesday night in a revealing conversation with Joe Buck, who has La Russa as his guest on his “Undeniable” one-on-one interview program that is carried on Audience Network at 7 o’clock.
It is available to customers of DirecTV (Channel 239) and AT&T U-Verse (Channel 1114), the DirecTV and U-Verse apps.
La Russa and Buck’s father, legendary Cardinals announcer Jack Buck, were close friends before Jack died in 2002. Joe and La Russa pick right up on that buddy theme as the show opens. As the former manager is introduced and takes a seat across from Buck, in typical La Russa fashion he takes control of the proceedings — or at least tries.
“Can we start with a question?” La Russa asks. “I was told (to wear a) tie. The host got no tie.”
But Buck quickly turns the table, and in a manner you wouldn’t hear on conventional TV.
“What a (deleted),” Buck fires back, smiling, while using a slang term referring to a part of the male anatomy.
La Russa has the retort: “That was a popular description of me when I was a manager.”
Buck said it was a pleasure to do the interview, which was taped more than a year ago.
“He’s really special to me in that he was really close to my dad, and he continues to include my mum in everything when he comes back to town,” Buck said. “That’s not the case with all of my dad’s co-workers or friends. I’ve loved how he’s been to my mum and dad, and maybe more my mum.”
The early stages of the nearly one-hour show centre on La Russa’s childhood and ascent to the major leagues as a shortstop, albeit in a brief playing career.
La Russa tells Buck that the a scout “got fired for signing me,” to which Buck replies, “Oh shut up. Liar!”
La Russa then says there are three shortstops in big-league history to start at age 18, with the list forming a trivia question.
“The answer is two pearls and a turd. … I was the first in history, and I was not a pearl.”
The others are Robin Yount and Alex Rodriguez.
Buck then comes back at La Russa: “I hate this side of you … I hate the self-deprecating BS,” using the words and not initials while pointing out that La Russa’s playing career was derailed by injury.
La Russa went to law school in the offseason while playing, saying it was to fulfil a promise to his mother more than because of a passion to become a lawyer.
“I love education, but I don’t love it that much,” he says.
Then when his days on the field ended, he decided to pursue a managerial, not law, career.