Tony La Russa, Manager of the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals, was found asleep on the job Friday night after the Cardinals lost to the Dodgers 2 – 1. Third Base Coach Jose Oquendo entered the home team’s dugout after the final out and found the inebriated Manager leaning next to the bullpen phone undisturbed.
“With his sunglasses on, I wasn’t sure if he was asleep or just really focused,” said Oquendo. “After a minute or two, I kinda’ nudged him with my finger…like this…and he, you know, kinda’ snorted and coughed. That was when I smelled the beer on his breath, and I knew.” Earlier in the year, La Russa was found in his vehicle, intoxicated and asleep at the wheel, during Spring Training.
“Well, I hadn’t heard that,” Walt Jocketty, General Manager of the Cardinals, said when told of his Manager’s nap. “But it explains a lot. I can see how a few things make a bit more sense now.”
Jocketty was referring to some interesting “non-moves” made during the course of the game against the Dodgers that night.
In the top of the ninth, St. Louis and L.A. were deadlocked at 0 – 0 with one out. With his pitch count over 100, Adam Wainwright, the game’s starting pitcher, walked a man to put the go ahead run on first. Having done his job, it seemed imminent the Cardinals skipper would go to his bullpen for a lefty to face the left-handed slugging first baseman, James Loney. Instead, he opted to stick with the right-hander and Wainwright promptly served up a monster two-run homer to Loney.
Pitching Coach Dave Duncan was unsure of what, exactly, transpired prior to the home run. “Well, I looked over at Tony to see what he wanted to do, and he leaned to the left and scratched his right ass cheek with his right hand. Tony and I have been together a lot of years, and I’m pretty sure that meant stick with the righty.” When asked if he could have been mistaken about the unusual sign, Duncan conceded the possibility by saying he had “never quite seen him use that particular sign before.”
The oddities continued in the bottom of the ninth with the Cardinals trailing 2 – 1 with one out and two men on. With the pitcher’s spot due up and a right-handed hurler on the mound, a pinch-hitting left-hander seemed guaranteed. But, to the surprise of Cardinals fans, Aaron Miles remained on the bench and Ryan Ludwick came to the plate in his place. When asked about the move, Ludwick revealed the Manager had nothing to do with the decision.
“Look, Tony was three sheets to the wind. When I saw the old man snorin‘, I turned to Juan (Encarnacion) and asked him what he wanted to do. He said ‘Uh…I don’ know…whatta’ you wanna’ do?’ I was like ‘Screw this’ and grabbed my bat. It was kind of a foot race, you know…Miles is a midget. I got long legs. It was no contest. I beat him to the on-deck circle by a mile.” Ludwick quickly struck out.
After Ludwick’s spirited failure, Adam Kennedy walked to the plate in what appeared, at the time, to be another unusual “non-move.”
“Hehe…yeah, I suck,” said Kennedy after the game. “But with Tony boozin‘ it up all game, I knew I was going to get a chance to hit with the game on the line. Miles tried to beat me to it, but I just kind of swatted his midget ass outta’ the way and took my hacks. That little shit’s been after my job all season.” After a drawn-out battle with the Dodger closer, Kennedy finally struck out when he swung at a fastball that nearly took his eyebrows off.
Cards-‘N-Stuff finally caught up with the Cardinals Manager as he walked to his vehicle early Saturday morning. “Well, obviously I didn’t intend to fall asleep during the game. I think I was still a little spent from celebrating Ankiel’s home run the night before. I got to the stadium late Friday and realized we didn’t have anywhere to store all the beer we removed from the clubhouse after Hancock’s death. So, I made a decision. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. That’s baseball. There’s no justice in this game.”
La Russa added he was sorely disappointed one of his players didn’t wake him up before leaving for the night.
“He seemed kind of peaceful, you know,” said Scott Rolen, the Cardinals third-baseman. “We didn’t want to mess that up…he might be dreaming of a win.”